A.M. Costa Rica

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(506) 223-1327        Published Thursday, Nov. 17, 2005, in  Vol. 5, No. 228          E-mail us    
Jo Stuart
About us

Incident in the street shows that Ticos care
By Jay Brodell
editor of A.M. Costa Rica

Ticos young and old joined up Wednesday afternoon to run down a street robber.

The victim was the A.M. Costa Rica editor, and the young robber snatched a digital camera from the editor's face as he was taking a photo on a sidewalk in Barrio Amón.

Thanks to a dozen Costa Ricans, the robbery suspect spent the evening in the Juzgado Penal, and the editor got back his camera.

As robberies go, this is an upbeat story. Everything worked the way it was supposed to. Citizens pitched in, the police arrived promptly and the prosecutor's office responded efficiently.

The story also shows that the average Costa Rican is fed up with larcenies and robberies big and small.

This incident took place on Calle 7 just south of Avenida 9 as the editor paused to take a photo. The decently dressed young man walked by and then lurched back and grabbed the camera with two hands as the editor placed the viewfinder to his eye. A scuffle ensued with the young man holding the camera and the editor holding an attached short wrist strap. The strap broke, and the man fled.

So much for the camera, the editor thought. He was not much of a match in a foot race with a young man.

But a passing taxi driver saw the incident and slowed to offer aid. Then he took off after the youth. A block further north, two young men on the corner urged the victim to call 911. Finally one did. He was an off-duty Fuerza Pública officer. The fleeing robber and the taxi vanished around a corner followed closely by the car of yet another motorist who joined the chase.

A.M. Costa Rica photo
Taxi driver who led capture shows a police officer a second camera as the suspect in white shirt stands in a corner.

A.M. Costa Rica photo
Aguilar is searched before being trasnported

Unaware that the street was a dead end, the robber was trapped, and neighbors came out of their homes to witness the taxi driver apprehending the fugitive. The second motorist, a young woman, smiled as she walked over to return the camera to the editor victim. She mentioned that the suspect carried a second digital camera.

In less than five minutes, Eduardo Fonseca Cortés, a motorcycle policeman arrived, followed by another officer, Carlos Jiménez, and two policemen in the traditional blue paddy wagon.

The robbery suspect, now identified as Edwin Steven Aguilar Villegas, was searched, put in the blue truck and taken to the police delegación on Avenida 3 south of Parque España. A tourist might be surprised to know that at least one of the officers there speaks English.

Aguilar, handcuffed to a chair, waited several hours while Fonseca filled out the paperwork. Then officers took him, the paperwork and the camera to the Juzgado Penal in the Tribunales de Justica in Goicoechea just north of San José. This is the 24-hour court. It was 6:30 p.m.

After processing, a court employee even returned the camera, which had been entered as evidence. A fiscal or prosecutor said that Aguilar eventually would be let go to answer a court date because he had no criminal history.

Street crime is a continual problem in San José. The Barrio Otoya area is one of tourist hotels and diversions. The robber probably was counting on his victim being a tourist who would not bother to file a complaint.

Fortunately the crime was not an armed robbery. It parallels closely the snatch and grabs of cellular telephones that take place each day in the Central Valley. At least one victim was killed when he fought back to keep his cell phone.

The participation of citizens is not unusual. Several times a year robbers or burglars caught in the act are severely beaten by passers-by.

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A.M. Costa Rica

Second news page

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Nov. 17, 2005, Vol. 5, No. 228

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A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas
The new number is 330 colons to start

Taxi meters on a roll

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The maría rolls up the numbers almost as fast as one can count now that taxi rates have gone up.

Tuesday marked the application of the second half of the increase in taxi fares approved by the regulating agency. Now the first kilometer costs 330 colons and subsequent ones are 300 colons.

Before the first hike in August, the rate was 285 colons for the first kilometer and 160 for subsequent kilometers.

The maría is the little black box every taxi driver is supposed to have to keep track of the fare, according to the regulating agency, the  Autoridad Reguladora de los Servicios Público.

For a three-kilometer ride, the increase is 54 percent, but taxi drivers said Wednesday they have heard few complaints.  The size of the increase, keyed to deflation of the colon and the world price of fuel, was so big that regulators did it in two steps. The interim increase was in August followed by the one that took effect midnight Monday.

Four held to face allegation
of taking cars by force

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Agents with the Judicial Investigating Organization in Heredia arrested four men in connection with a series of stolen vehicles, agents said. 

Three of the men were identified as brothers with the last names Ortega Cordero, agents said.  They are accused of stealing cars – sometimes by force – in Heredia, Alajuela, San José and Turrialba. 

Two of the men were arrested in Turrialba and the third was arrested at a house in Cartago, agents said. 

Agents also raided a home in San Rafael de Heredia rented by the man accused of leading the band.  He was identified as Marvin Ortega who sometimes goes by the name Popeye, agents said. 

In the house, agents said they found a manual on fabricating car keys for the types of cars reported stolen.  Agents also said they found 200 blank keys and instruments to shape them.  They also found a Hyundai which had been reported stolen from San José in a carjacking, and various articles which had been reported stolen along with missing cars, agents said. 

The owner of the Hyundai had said that her attacker had put a gun to her head and ordered her out of the car, agents said.

Our reader's Opinion

End corruption to find
money to fix highways

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Reply to cost of road repairs: ¢ 28 billion sure is a lot of money but how true is it. Who get’s the contract and  how much profit are they getting. How many bids where put out. More answers are needed.

I bought a car Dodge Ram in 2001 and paid $18,000 in import duties. Where did that go? In 5 years I have paid 2.5 million colones in marchamo for road repairs not counting the extra President Pacheco put on cars over 6 million colones of 100,000 colones each.

I know a family very well in Nicoya, Ticos, who have a large farm, ferreterias and a gas station. These people have three Dodge Rams newer than mine. That would mean between two families close to 50 million colones import duties and 2 million colones per year for marchamos. What about the remainder of the country. I have taken down license plate numbers of many cars and see many over 180,000 colones for marchamos.

So how much will the government collect next month when all the marchamos are due? Transparency — where is it.

I know an organization very powerful called Transparency International. In their ad they start with people carrying coffins and saying “what is the worst disease in the world?” Then in big letters  “CORUPTION,”  I noticed Costa Rica has dropped another few points and now holds 51 out of 158 countries and shares this position with El Salvador and two other countries with a score of 4.2 with 10 being best.

Stop corruption first, Mr. President, and the money will start flowing into Ministerio Hacienda like an October rainfall.

Any one that can translate this is welcome to do so and place in La Nacion and La Dia.

I am voting this next year!!!

Richard Vienneau
Playa Potrero, Guanacaste
Professional Directory
A.M. Costa Rica's professional directory is where business people who wish to reach the English-speaking community may invite responses. If you are interested in being represented here, please contact the editor.

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A.M. Costa Rica

Third news page

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Nov. 17, 2005, Vol. 5, No. 228

U.S. efforts bottleneck cocaine here
Plenty of snow is falling on Costa Rica these days

By Jesse Froehling
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

On Calle 9, a man with a Brooklyn accent stops a reporter late one night. 

“You speak English man?”  The reporter tosses a response over his shoulder and hurries on his way. 

“Whoa! Whoa! Wait a second man,  where ya from?”  Reluctantly the reporter stops and listens.

“I came down here three months ago on business, but the coke was too cheap.  Now look at me.”  The reporter takes in the man's bare feet, his shorts despite the chilly weather, his ratty flannel shirt.

“I need help man.  I gotta get help bad.”  The man describes a rehab clinic in Pérez Zeledón that he needs money to get to by bus.  The reporter passes over some change, wishes the man well, and hears the same greeting a week later.  When confronted the man, shakes his head.   “I ain't gonna lie man, I couldn't hold on to it.  It all went up in smoke.  I gotta get help bad.”

A statement from the U. S. State Department Web site may shed light on the reason that more and more people like the Brooklynite are falling so quickly from grace here and why barely pubescent kids huddle over crack pipes in the streets of San José. 

“The principal U.S. counternarcotics goal in Costa Rica is to reduce the transit of drugs to U.S. markets.”  As the United States dumps more and more money into curbing the flow of drugs crossing its borders, more and more of those drugs intended for markets in the United States are bottlenecking in Central America, including Costa Rica. 

Before 1999, the primary method of trafficking drugs from South America to the United States was tractor trailer once the shipments reached Central America, the State Department said.

“Costa Rica’s location astride the Central American isthmus makes the country an attractive transshipment area for South American-produced cocaine and heroin destined primarily for the United States. Its attraction to traffickers stems from: (1) dual coastline; (2) poorly-patrolled Pan American Highway; (3) porous southern border; (4) no military; and (5) a Coast Guard with limited resources,” the State Department said.

But beginning in 2000, the United States started working with the Costa Rican government to curb the flow.  The United States donated boats, vehicles, computers, communications equipment, drug dogs and sophisticated monitoring equipment to help catch narcotics shipments before they reached the United States, the Web site said. 

As a result, the size of shipments crossing land borders became smaller yet more frequent and drug smugglers began utilizing a maritime jurisdiction 11 sizes the size of Costa Rica itself, the Web site said. 
To combat this, the United States began investing heavily in Costa Rica's Servicio Nacional de Guardacosta as well. 

Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y
 Seguridad Pública photo

In what is becoming almost a daily routine, anti-drug agents catalog the contents of a vehicle near Pérez Zeledón Tuesday. They said the packages were 240 kilos of cocaine.

In 2002, the amount of illicit drugs seized in the country increased dramatically from 2001.  The amount of cocaine nearly doubled and the heroin seizures tripled.  The amount of cocaine seized in the country in 2003 almost doubled the amount taken in 2002.  The amount of heroin again tripled that seized in the same year, said the State Department.

In 2004, the trend continued.  But even though Costa Rican law enforcement became more reliable, the amount of drug seizures again increased dramatically, the State Department said. 

The trend continues this year.  Drug agents seized 167 kilos of cocaine from a microbus near the Panamanian border Nov. 3.  The seizure made 5,666 kilos seized for the year.  The previous record was set in 1997 with 5,623 kilos. 

In the same two weeks since, A.M. Costa Rica has reported on seven more such seizures.  In addition, drug agents at Juan Santamaría International Airport this year have caught 18 suspected mules, or persons carrying narcotics on international flights.

There are two possible explanations.  Either Costa Rica's drug enforcement methods have become more astute, or there are more drugs bottlenecking here.

Petty crime – which much of the time is involved with drug addictions - seems to be increasing.  In less than a month, three reporters have been involved in robberies or attempted robberies either as victims or eyewitnesses.  Two of these assaults involved guns.       

And though the State Department says that the Costa Rican government is directing more resources to address the serious threats posed by narcotics trafficking, like many other “serious threats” in the country, budgetary limitations continue to constrain the capability of the country to do something. 

As long as that happens, the narcotics will keep piling up and people like the down and out Brooklynite and his young counterparts will continue to use drugs, acquiring them by whatever means necessary, be it working, begging or robbing. 

Many of the national publications are claiming that real estate in Costa Rica is grossly overpriced and that the time has come and gone for the land of Pura Vida. True or False?

Well, if you read the classified ads in the English-speaking countries it would seem that a small lot on the beach can run easily in excess of $250,000 and a home in the mountains of trendy Escazú can run well over $500,000. And even a basic home in Heredia can quickly top $300,000.

So . . . has Costa Rican real estate become too expensive?

Can the average "Gringo" still afford to retire here?

The truth? . . . . Take a look at the pictures that are featured here . . . .

Could you retire on a property with views like these?

The properties featured here at CR Home Realty have views like the above . . . and can have a custom home built of top grade quality of between 1,300 and 1,800 sq. ft. . . . and CAN BE PURCHASED FOR BETWEEN $80,000 AND $150,000.  (yes, that includes the land)

. . . minimum lot size almost two acres.

. . . private . . . not a gated community . . . in a secure and safe area
. . . within 45 minutes of the country's major airport and an hour of the country's best shopping

. . . within 15 minutes of a larger town with all amenities including a hospital

. . . utilities close by

. . . all homes are custom built and designed to your specifications. . . . these are not "run of the mill" standard design homes. These are custom-built, top-of-the-line homes. You can even get a totally "no risk," financial guarantee with your purchase and design, if you choose.


Well, we don't blame you for being skeptical. Five years ago we would have said the same thing. BUT . . . . SEEING IS BELIEVING.

CR-HOME REALTY . . . a small firm which over the past two years has gained literally an international reputation and scores of satisfied clients and "believers."

We specialize in helping those seeking to retire in Costa Rica and want to stretch their dollars as far as possible. And we are small enough to offer the best of personalized service and the very best in results.




RANDY@CR-HOME.COM or 011-506-444-1695 or e-mail us for our toll free number.

A.M. Costa Rica

Fourth news page

Good grief!

Are you still spending 70 percent 
of your advertising budget on paper?

You need to fill this space ASAP!

Home Calendar Place a 
classified ad
Classifieds Real estate  Food About us
San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Nov. 17, 2005, Vol. 5, No. 228


USA Beverages Inc. sold coffee stands
FTC freezes Costa Rican phone sales operation as scam
Special to the A.M. Costa Rica

A Costa Rican operation that used Voice over Internet Protocol services, shell corporations, aliases and shills to con United States consumers into investing in a bogus business opportunity has been halted by a U.S. District Court at the request of the Federal Trade Commission, the commission  reported. The court has issued a temporary restraining order barring the false claims, freezing the defendants’ assets, and appointing a receiver, who shut down the toll-free and U.S. phone lines used to market the scheme, the commission said.

“With the advent of Internet telephony, the days when consumers could rely upon a phone number to know where the person they call is located have come and gone,” said Lydia Parnes, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “You may think you are calling an established American business, but you are talking to an overseas scam artist. Consumers should never rely solely on what they are told or shown by sellers of franchise or business opportunities, and should always investigate the opportunity with their own eyes.”

The defendants used classified ads and a Web site to advertise their coffee display rack franchises. They claimed that in exchange for payments from $18,000 to $85,000, they would provide customers with what they needed to operate a successful coffee display rack business, including assistance in finding profitable locations for the racks. According to the company’s Web site, it was located in Las Cruces, New Mexico, and had been in business since 1994.

According to the FTC’s complaint, the scam actually was based in Costa Rica, but the defendants used Voice over Internet Protocol services to obscure the location of the business and make it appear that they
were operating from New Mexico. The complaint also alleges the company has been operating for months, not years, as claimed on the Web site.

The FTC’s complaint alleged the defendants made false claims about earnings potentials, locations available for the display racks, and company-selected references. The complaint further alleged that defendants did not make certain disclosures required in the initial disclosure documents and in advertising that contained earnings claims.

Representatives selling the franchises for the defendants claimed that consumers would make no less than $1,055.60 per week if they operated a 13-display rack venture. The FTC alleged such claims were false. As part of the sales pitch, representatives assured consumers that numerous retail locations were already lined up in their local area – another claim the FTC alleged was untrue. Representatives referred prospective buyers to “satisfied purchasers.”  The references echoed earnings claims made by the representatives for the company and spoke highly of the location service. The FTC charged, however, that often the references were simply shills, paid by the company for endorsements, using prepaid cell phones to make it appear purchasers were operating successful coffee display routes throughout the United States.

The FTC complaint named as defendants USA Beverages Inc.; Dilraj Mathauda, also known as “Dan Reynolds;” Sirtaj Mathauda; Jeff Pearson, also known as “Paul Clayton”; David Mead; and Silvio Carrano.

The U.S. district court judge granted an ex-parte temporary restraining order, asset freeze, immediate access, and the appointment of a receiver. The restraining order also prohibits the defendants from the six law violations alleged in the FTC’s complaint.

Tourism continues to prosper despite higher oil prices, U.N. agency says
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Higher oil prices have so far had limited effect on international tourism growth, with only a small percentage of the increase passed onto consumers in terms of final purchase price, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization.

“While the past oil price peaks had a significant negative impact on tourism through to the economy at large, on this occasion the global economy has remained relatively steady and the inflationary pressure appears to be limited for now,” Francesco Frangialli said of a recently concluded agency report. He is secretary general of the organization.

According to the report:

Unlike previous crises it is not an unexpected shock, but rather a progressive escalation predominantly reflecting a strong demand for energy driven by
economic growth. Oil prices might affect the bottom-line results of tourism companies through higher costs. But for the moment consumer confidence is still high and tourism demand has not been affected.

According to latest data from the International Air Transport Association, passenger traffic from January through September this year increased by 8.3 per cent, with airlines in the Middle East and Africa reporting double-digit growth rates.

Demand for international tourism has remained strong through 2005, with World Tourism Organizations estimates showing an expected growth of 5 to 6 per cent in international tourist arrivals, which can be considered exceptional, it said. International tourism is not only on track to consolidate the bumper year it had in 2004 (10.7 per cent), but will also exceed the forecast long-term average growth of 4 per cent, the organization added.

Costa Rican fugitive from sex conviction is located living in Canada
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A Costa Rican sentenced to eight years in prison in San José for a 1999 charge of sexual abuse against a 10-year-old girl was arrested in Ottawa Saturday after police there found his name on the data base of the International Police Agency (INTERPOL)

He is 43-year-old Andres Sibaja Castro, police said.  Through confidential information, police said they had been tracing Sibaja through various Central American
countries until he finally turned up in Canada, they said.  In November of 2003, police said they found him in Ontario, Canada, but he left just days before police arrived to arrest him, they said.

Sibaja was finally arrested when he tried to formalize his migration status, officers said.  Although Costa Ricans don't need a visa to enter Canada, there is a rule that persons entering the country must have a clean criminal record.  Anyone who attempts to hide this information is arrested, police said.   

Jo Stuart
About us

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