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(506) 223-1327        Published Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2005, in Vol. 5, No. 231          E-mail us    
Jo Stuart
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Law would be the same as for drug dealing
Sex unit chief seeks to confiscate bordellos
By Saray Ramírez Vindas
and the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The head of the security ministry's sex crimes unit wants to foster legislation so his agency can seize the property of pimps, pedophiles and corruptors of minors.

The property of those convicted of these crimes would be confiscated the same way that the law allows officers now to take the property of persons involved in drug trafficking. That's if Paul Chávez has his way.

Chávez is the head of the Dirección de Investigaciones Especializadas of the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública. Some 60 percent of his work, he said, involves commercial sex exploitation and offenses against minors.

He met with reporters Monday to outline how his section has grown and changed its strategy since he took over in April 2003.  Chávez has been in the news because his investigators have been finding and arresting persons convicted of sex crimes who avoided prison by being fugitives. This year his section has carried out 45 separate operations resulting in 46 arrests. The bulk of the arrests were for sexually abusing minors, rape and pimping.

Chávez said that he hopes his revitalized unit will continue when a new president is elected. A new legislature will come into office, too, in May. Chávez said the current group of lawmakers are preoccupied with the tax reform measures and the free trade treaty. So he is prepared to wait until the 2006 legislative session to suggest his tough proposals for pimps and pedophiles.

The idea would be to allow the government to confiscate structures and property used in pimping and other sex crimes. He also wants a legal gap closed that now allows possession and distribution of child pornography. In some cases, Chávez said, pornographers have modern computer equipment that he said could be put to better use if confiscated and turned over to his investigators.

The success of the unit headed by Chávez has not gone unnoticed by the Judicial Investigating Organization. Last week Jorge Rojas, who heads what is called the OIJ, questioned the legality of the Dirección de Investigaciones Especializadas. The OIJ is under the jurisdiction of the courts and is charged with conducting criminal investigations.

Although Chávez said he would like to see
his 40-officer unit grow to contain 100

A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas
Paul Chávez with modern computer gear
policeman, the OIJ is, by comparison, a monster with some 1,100 investigators and hundreds of vehicles, he said.

Chávez said that part of the success of his unit is in obtaining funds from other countries. The United Kingdom has donated the equivalent of $9,000 for computers and video cameras. The United States has made donations of money and training and will do more by the end of this year, he said.

With modern equipment Chávez has been able to set up a four-person cybercrimes unit and is ready to support a decree on trafficking in persons that was signed Sept. 23.

Chávez, a lawyer by training, agrees that the Miguel Ángel Rodríguez government adopted a policy of denial regarding sex crimes against children. In 2001 pedophiles, including a lawyer, were found making and publishing pornography on equipment at the University of Costa Rica. This spectacular case began to raise this type of crime in the minds of the public.

Chávez was an anti-drug agent but in 2003 Rogelio Ramos, the minister, asked him to take over what then was a struggling unit with five officers, a single car and a single computer.

Now, he said, his unit represents a commitment with teeth and "we mean business."

Prostitution is not prosecuted in Costa Rica but pimping is a crime. A number of hotels, bars,   pensions, massage parlors and strip clubs are poorly disguised bordellos, and it is these properties and their owners Chavez hopes to target with stronger legislation.

Periodically some of these are raided and some arrests are made. But the business usually reopens within a month or two. If the structure and personal property were confiscated, that would not happen.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2005, Vol. 5, No. 231

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Our readers' opinions

Crime story was fiction,
Desamparados man says

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:
Your front page article on Monday, Nov. 21, was certainly a surprise.  It reads more like an editorial or fiction or even a letter to the editor.

Some of the claims are totally ridiculous and must certainly reflect on the integrity of your paper.  Why not simply make up the news.  This article reads like an unsubstantiated piece of fiction or Gringo Gulch talk. Is that how reporters get the news.  I find it hard to believe anything the writer says when they make such ridiculous and unsubstantiated claims about the crime scene in Costa Rica.
I have been living here for 16 years and keep up on all the news, I am certain if someone had their finger chopped off to steal a ring in San Jose, it would have made the news.  You would certainly have reported it and certainly it would not have been missed by The Tico Times.
I have a very expensive gold rolex watch and, of course, I don’t wear it if I am planning to walk around downtown, but I don’t keep it locked up in a safety deposit box in the U.S.A. That suggestion is simply absurd. If you plan on living in Costa Rica: “Don’t have anything that you can’t afford to lose and keep a low profile.”  What a ridiculous comment, why would anyone want to live here.

I have found the malls in Costa Rica to be extremely safe, and you never read about incidents in the malls here. Is that not something worthy to report on.
I am extremely impressed with the LOW crime rate in Costa Rica and even more impressed with the efficiency of the police and citizens to thwart what little petty crime does exist here. You have your own personal experience with crime recently and how efficiently the thief was caught. I don’t think you would find any bystanders or even police acting this way in a NYC subway.
Your paper has printed numerous accounts of thieves being quickly caught and professional bands being investigated and apprehended.  Doesn’t that impress you.
Kidnapping here is almost unheard of, and when it does happen it gets front page headlines. And as far as I know, every kidnapper here gets caught, the money returned and the hostages released safely.  Have you read otherwise?
I dislike seeing articles like this because it makes Costa Rica seem like Bogotá, Colombia, Mexico City or any big American city. The difference is they don’t have enough paper to print all the petty crimes that occur in these places.  I suspect 90 percent of the crimes reported in your site or The Tico Times would never see print in, say, Miami.
This crime-ridden portrayal of Costa Rica comes from the tendency here, of simply reporting every crime that ever happens, no matter how minor. Perhaps it is the very lack of crime that allows this ability to report everything.  But editorializing on the crime wave in Costa Rica because we report every petty crime, is just absurd.

Edward Bridges
ARS Corp.
Desamparados, San José

 EDITOR'S NOTE: We stand by our story.
He calls on the people
to stem the crime wave

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I was born in Costa Rica, but I have lived almost all of my life in California. Every time I go back to Costa Rica and talk to my family or friends about the crime going on there, I tell them that Costa Rica has changed so much.

They tell me that some of the reasons for the crime wave is that when they catch someone they are not in jail very long either because they let them out quickly like the young man who tried to steal the digital camera from one of your reporters or they escape very easily.

They also tell me that the laws are very lenient. I tell them that the only way to start a change is by el pueblo, the people, taking back their country. I read of strikes all the time as well as protest concerning many things in the streets of San José. They need to protest about the escalating crime. Seems like the priorities are not in the right place. Peace of mind as well as good health should be first priority.

Difficult to have peace of mind if you have to lock  yourself in your homes or think twice about going out because of the possibility of being robbed. I was very happy in the incident of the AM Costa Rica employee  getting help from some citizens. That is taking back your country. If enough people do this, changes will start taking place.

Of course you are not going to try to fight off someone who is carrying a handgun or knife but enough  information can be given to the proper authorities to quickly catch the robbers. Thank you for letting me vent. I have been wanting to write this letter for quite a while, plus more.
Marco Chavarria
California, U.S.A.

Man loses his finger
in Puntarenas encounter

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Fuerza Pública in Puntarenas captured three persons Sunday accused of attacking a man with a gun.  The attack left the victim minus a pinky finger, officers said. 

The three suspects, identified by the last names Acuña Muñoz, Valverde and Matamoros Fonseca confronted the victim, Vicente Serrano Serrano, near a bus stop in Puntarenas and fled in a Mitsubishsi Montero, officers said.  It was unclear if the man's finger was shot off or had been cut off by his attackers.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2005, Vol. 5, No. 231

Three firms combine to offer free trips on urban train
By Silleny Sanabria Soto
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Every Tuesday and Thursday for two months, starting today, the urban train will be a free ride.

Banco Nacional, DeMasa and Repretel are sponsoring a new program and promoting it with television announcements and brochures with information about stops and schedules. This is in addition to paying for passengers who ride during those two days of the week.

The trains capacity is for 300 to 400 people.  That means that in a month the contribution of the companies could be up to 3.4 million colons or about $6,900.

Fernando Contreras of the television broadcasting company Repretel and José Antonio Vásquez of Banco Nacional were at the Estacion del Pacifico Monday to help outline the program.

Hans Bucher, president of Demasa, thanked the Instituto Costarricense de Ferrocarriles for letting his Pavas-based firm be part of the new project, and the use the phrase  “feeding  the life of the Costa Rican
people” in the promotion. Demasa is a food products company.

The project is principally for students and workers, with the objective of avoiding rush hour vehicle traffic.

The price of a trip from Pavas to Universidad Latina in San Pedro de Montes de Oca is 300 colons. Half the route costs 150 colons and less than half is 100 colons. There are 491 colons to the U.S. dollar today.
Daily train service began Oct. 7, and the railway institute said that 12,000 persons had ridden some part of the route from that date until the first week of November.

The train service will expand 1.5 kilometers west to Lomas de Pavas and may soon include Belén and Heredia, said Miguel Carabaguíaz, president of the railway institute.

The schedule is being increased, too, with the first train moving out at 5 a.m.

Officials said they were looking for other companies to pay for other free days.

Eight violent deaths mar Sunday in Costa Rica
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Agents with the Judicial Investigating Organization and officers with the Fuerza Pública are looking into eight deaths that occurred Sunday.

Officials in the Provincia de Limón are investigating the circumstances of three of those deaths.  A Puerto Viejo woman, Grace Castro Sánchez, checked into the Clínica de Homecreck with a bullet wound to the left side of her throat, agents said. 

Her boyfriend, who accompanied her to the clinic, said that the woman had been accidentally wounded with a .357 magnum rifle but investigations showed that the bullet had entered through her right shoulder and exited through the wound on her neck, said agents.  The woman died at the clinic, agents said.    

Another victim died in Villa del Mar, Sunday evening and although law agencies agree on the way he died, they disagree on the victim's name, his age, the exact time of the incident and the circumstances surrounding it. 

According to the Fuerza Pública, the victim, 21-year-old Reinaldo Foruesveylis, was found dead at 7:43 p.m. 50 meters north of the Movimiento Universal church in the town.  Officers said that he had been shot in the throat during a drive-by shooting from a car that was only described as red. 

Agents with the Judicial Investigating Organization agree that the victim was wounded in the throat at the church, but their story differs as follows: the victim, 22-year-old Ray Mundo Forbes Benlis, was found dead with a shotgun wound to his throat.  Agents said that Forbes had gotten into an argument with another person and the dispute turned ugly. 

The two agencies also disagree on the circumstances surrounding the death of Luís Alberto González Flores.  The agencies disagree on González's age as well. 

According to the Fuerza Pública, the 26-year-old González also died in a drive-by shooting that occurred at 9:25 in El Bambú in Limón.  He died of a gunshot wound to the chest, officers said. 
The Judicial Investigating Organization says that the 25-year-old victim was shot in the throat after he got into an argument with an 18-year-old man.  Agents said they arrested a man Monday morning who they think is responsible for González's death, they said. 

Agents with the organization in Puntarenas are investigating the death of 19-year-old Alejandro Herrera Ruíz who died in the Ciudadela Fray Casiano de Madrid, agents said. Agents said that Herrera went iguana hunting in a boat with five other persons and was somehow shot in the right side of the throat.

Agents with the organization in Alajuela are looking into the circumstances surrounding the death of 21-year-old Alexander Porras Chavarría.  His body was found with a bullet wound in the left side of his back at 8 p.m. Sunday night in a street in Tuetal Sur de Alajuela, agents said.

A bungled car robbery attempt could have been the cause of the death of 26-year-old Rolando Marín Maldonado, agents said.  Agents suspect that Marín and three other persons stole a green Nissan Almera from a Freses de Curridabat woman who was arriving home.  The crooks were only able to drive the car a few hundred meters before an anti-theft device shut the car off, agents said.  A guard at the neighborhood exchanged shots with the crooks but they were able to get away, agents said. 
When Fuerza Pública agents arrived on the scene, they said they found a bloody ski-mask in the car.  At 8:15 p.m., shortly after the incident, the officers said they received a call that a body had been dumped in a nearby alleyway. When the officers found the man, he was still alive but had been shot in the head, they said.  The officers took the man, later identified as Marín, to Hospital Calderón Guardia where he died, they said.

Officers with the Fuerza Pública in Aserrí seized a house in the town when they found the body of 23-year-old José Francisco Cerdas López hanging by a rope from the roof, they said.  

When they entered the dwelling, they found another person, tied up with a chain and locked from the outside in one of the rooms, they said.  

A.M. Costa Rica

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Good grief!

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2005, Vol. 5, No. 231

Winds and a cold front are expected to decrease temperatures
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The winds and a cold front are sweeping in, and much of the country will experience sunny or partly cloudy conditions today.

For those roused out of their homes in the southwest part of the country, this is good news.

The emergency commission reported Monday that conditions have normalized, and most rivers are back in their banks, although a lot of debris has been left as a result of flooding over the weekend. This is in the cantons of Golfito and Corredores

Tropical depression Gamma, the 27th storm of the
year, treated Costa Rica gently compared to the havoc it wrought in Honduras.

The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional predicted lower temperatures today due to a cold front that is in the Gulf of Honduras. This will bring clouds and some rain, mainly in the mountains and until Wednesday on the Caribbean coast and the northern plains.

Winds from the chilly north are what drive the rain clouds away and create Costa Rica's dry summer.

The Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias said that 350 persons still were in shelters in the southwest part of the country. Some 120 more were staying with family.

Concert set for Dec. 18 as a benefit for the Tom and Norman Home
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Little Theatre Group is planning two presentations in December, a Christmas fundraiser and a hip hop dance performance at the Blanche Brown Theater in Escazú.

For the fourth year the group will host "The Angel of Love" fundraising Christmas Concert Dec. 18 at 2:30 p.m.

The group El Ebano is a string quartet of musicians playing two violins, a viola and a cello.  They will perform a mixed program including traditional Christmas music. Members of the Orquestra Sinfonia Nacional Ana Alfaro, Gabriela Alfaro, Mercedes Rodríguez and a violinist who calls himself just Erasmo have volunteered to donate their time and talent.
This concert will raise funds for the Hogar Tom & Norman, a home for abandoned old folks in Guápiles.  Admission is free, but donations of cash or coffee, sugar, beans and rice are accepted.

The Freeway, a hip-hop dance group, will perform at the theater group's open house Dec. 5 from 7 to 9 p.m.  The group officially formed five months ago, however they have been dancing together since they were kids. They just finished a music video for a local singer and participated in several national dance competitions where they finished in second and first place, said an announcement.

The group is made up of 22-year-old Humphrey Sterling Dixon, 19-year-old Hector Rodríguez Rosabal, his 17-year-old brother Cesar, 23-year-old Edgar Bonilla Briones and 18-year-old Michael Herrera Peralta. 

U.S. and Nicaragua renew pact to restrict sale of archaeological artifacts
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The United States and Nicaragua have extended until 2010 an agreement that imposes restrictions on the importation to the United States of Nicaraguan archaeological materials, according to the U.S. State Department.

The accord initially was signed in 2000 following a Nicaraguan request for assistance with its efforts to protect its cultural heritage and stop the pillage of archaeological sites.

The import restrictions cover pre-Columbian materials such as polychrome ceramics, stone statues, gold
ornaments and shell beads made by cultures living between 8000 B.C. and A.D. 1550 in what is now Nicaragua.

Set to expire in 2005, the agreement was extended for an additional five years in October. At a ceremony marking the renewal of the agreement, the U.S. Ambassador to Nicaragua, Paul Trivelli, outlined its importance.

"Without the cooperation between our two countries and with others around the world, we could not recover these relics from the past or use them to teach future generations about their rich heritage," he said.

HIV/AIDS is on the increase in Latin America, United Nations reports
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The United Nations says unsafe sex and intravenous drug use have led to an increase in HIV/AIDS cases in Latin America this year.

The agency released its annual AIDS report Monday, saying the region had 200,000 new infections this year.

The report says the South American countries of  Argentina, Brazil and Colombia have the biggest
 epidemics in the region, primarily due to their large populations.

But the highest prevalence of HIV was found in the smaller Central American countries of Belize, Guatemala and Honduras, with about 1 percent of adults infected.

In the Caribbean, the AIDS epidemic claimed an estimated 24,000 lives in 2005, making it the leading cause of deaths among those residents aged 15 to 44 years old.

Jo Stuart
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