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(506) 2223-1327        Published Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2008,  in Vol. 8, No. 239       E-mail us
Jo Stuart
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Milanes creditors are getting more restless over case
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Investors who lost their money with Savings Unlimited are getting restless because former fugitive Luis Ángel Milanes Tamayo has been free here for more than five months, and their money seems as far away as ever.

Milanes is the Cuban-American who blew town Nov. 25, 2002, leaving his clients financial dreams in shambles.

He returned June 19, a presumed beneficiary of a special deal worked out with prosecutors. He spent a night in jail and then was allowed to go free on the condition that he post millions in property and cash.

Creditors hoped he would try to resolve his financial problems and settle with them.

But this week his lawyer disclosed he was quitting the case and said that high living by Milanes was draining the money available to pay creditors. The lawyer, Álvaro Jiménez Acuña, told a reporter for Diario Extra that Milanes earmarked just $1.5 million to settle with investors and that he has blown half the amount.

Investors in the high-interest Savings Unlimited were stung to the tune of about $200 million, but those who persisted and pressed a criminal case against the man are a small percentage. Also named as defendants are associates who continued to run the Milanese casino businesses and other enterprises while the boss was in hiding.

Several circles of investors have hired lawyers with the intent of forcing Milanes to make a financial arrangement to avoid prison. Milanes faces a fraud charge. An amount of $1.5 million seems nowhere near enough to satisfy investor demands. And more unhappy creditors have joined the case since
Milanes showed up. The number is now more than 500, a reporter was told.

A court document said that the original 435 persons listed as victims in the case represented some $40 million in lost investments.

Creditors got a boost last week when they learned that a little known Milanes associate José Adolfo Somarribas Arias, had been detained on an international warrant in Luxembourg. Somarribas is a former candidate to be defensor de los habitantes, the nation's ombudsman, and was a recognized San José lawyer.

Somarribas appears to be the legal adviser and close associate of Milanes, but hardly any investors knew of him. He is presumed to be the man who maintains foreign bank accounts for Milanes. Interpol said he was being sought for money laundering.

The main question on investors minds is who informed on Somarribas. The arrest warrant for Somarribas was not ordered until August, but he was named in the original list of defendants in the formal accusation.

While he has been free, Milanes has been living in the penthouse of his Hotel Europa and has been a frequent visitor to the city's poker tables. He also has been working on his own behalf, having picked up more responsibility from his business associates.

His high-interest business, informally called "The Cubans," paid investors monthly returns.

Although today the idea that a company can pay 3 to 5 percent interest a month on investments seems unlikely, when Savings Unlimited was in operation from 1999 to 2002, there were at least five similar firms offering about the same deal.

Add these dates to schedule of holiday activities
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

With Christmas right around the corner, here are some activities not to be missed in San José this upcoming holiday season.

Christmas Feria of Choruses and Artesanias,
Thursday to Sunday.

More than 100 craftsworkers will sell artesanias in the Parque Central on Avenida 4, joined by evening choral performances who are just as likely to sing renditions of “Jingle Bells” alongside “Noche De Paz.”

Mural Presentation,

Two murals completed by studio art students at the Universidad Nacional will be dedicated at 9:30 and 10:30 a.m., at the Metrocoop building (call 2252-0853 for directions) and the Ciudadela 25 de Julio, both located in Hatillo.

Fiesta del Tamal Tico,

You know you want a big chunk of rice-filled, a-maize-ing goodness wrapped in banana leaves. How about 10,000 of them? Sample as many tamales as you can imagine at the annual tamale festival, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Avenida Central. Vendors will have stalls set up from the Mercado Central to Banco Central.

Tuesday Dec. 9 to Sunday Dec. 14

Who knows if the traditional confetti will be thrown to inaugurate this year's Avenidazo, a series of nightly concerts and other cultural performances that can be seen on Avenida Central from 5 to 7 p.m., from the Mercado Central to the Banco Central.
Feria del Libro,
Tuesday Dec. 9 to Sunday Dec. 14

Find the perfect gift or just browse the latest international bestsellers at the annual Christmas book fair, open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. in Parque Central and Avenida 4.

Pasacalle and Festival de la Luz,
Saturday Dec. 13.

In one of the season's most colorful, don't-miss festivals, this spectacular, light-filled parade usually draws about a million onlookers every year. From 3 p.m. to 10 p.m., parade floats and bands will fill Paseo Colón and Avenida Segunda, each float representing a variation of this year's theme, “Ser...humano,” or, “Being Human.”

Festival Cultural en Los Olivos,
Tuesday Dec. 16 to Thursday Dec. 18.

A three-day fest of culture and community art in San Sebastián, Barrio Los Olivos.

Día del Caballista Nacional,
Friday Dec. 26.

In one of San Jose's oldest festivals, 3,000 horses will strut their stuff down Paseo Colón to Plaza Víquez. Riders will leave Parque de la Sabana at 1 p.m.

Fiestas de San José,
Thursday, Dec. 25, to Tuesday, Jan. 6.

A fun fair in the Campo Ferial Zapote, meant to entertain the whole family. From the mid-morning until midnight, nibble on cotton candy, play traditional games and try to win a giant teddy bear for your loved one.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 239

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drugs confiscated
Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía
y Seguridad Pública/Humberto Ballestero
Anti-drug police have a job ahead: To move some nearly three tons of cocaine.

Crew flees cocaine boat
at inlet in gulf of Nicoya

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The crew of a presumed drug boat are the object of a search in the Cantón de Esparza on the Gulf of Nicoya after law officers on the sea and in the air forced the individuals to abandon ship.

The Servicio Nacional de Guardacostas, the Policía de Control de Drogas and the Fuerza Pública confiscated some 130 20-kilo packages of presumed cocaine after they grabbed the boat, an open craft with three 200-horsepower motors.

The crew jumped from the boat and swam to shore near  Playa Tivives at the mouth of the Río Jesús María Monday morning. They are assumed to have taken to the mountains.

Cruz roja workers
Cruz Roja photo
Workers in San José load food, clothing and water for the trip to the Caribbean.

Caribbean residents brace
for another wave of moisture

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A cold front was sweeping across Costa Rica from the north to south early today, and the forecast called for rain of various intensities over the Provincia de Limón and the northern zone.

Some of the rain came down around 1 a.m. in San José, although heavy downpours are not expected until the afternoon when thunderstorms are predicted through Saturday.

The front will bring chill and winds across most of the country and perhaps some light rains on the Pacific coast.

The concern is great on the Caribbean coast where the South Caribbean Chamber of Tourism sent out a release Monday saying that "Puerto Viejo, a popular tourist destination on the Caribbean coast, is back in action after a well-publicized period of storms and flooding, and is ready to welcome the travelers bound here to celebrate the holidays. Travel is open from San Jose to Puerto Viejo, and vacationers can expect to enjoy their visit to this lush tropical paradise."

Ed Ryan, vice president of the chamber said that locals managed to place a temporary bridge at the entrance to Puerto Viejo to allow vehicles to enter. The heavy rains and flooding Wednesday had shifted the bridge. Government officials have promised to put in a metal temporary span.

A permanent bridge will be completed early this month, Ryan said.

The rain caused millions of dollars in damage to agriculture and cost tourist operators significant sums in lost revenue.

The national emergency commission said that some 17 shelters still were open with 1,283 displaced residents living there in the Cantón de Talamanca.

The agency, correctly called the Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias, also expressed concern about the approaching front. It was a cold front that triggered some 15 days of heavy rains late last month.

The big job Monday was in getting food, drinking water and clothing to isolated communities and those areas hard hit by flooding. The Cruz Roja said it moved 62 tons of supplies from San José to the Caribbean and was in the process of distributing the goods Monday. Such work had been hampered by mud slides on the major Ruta 32 highway from San José.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 239

Twin sessions consider future of southern zone development
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The environmental watchdog is engineering a high-level encounter for two days Thursday and Friday to discuss sustainable development in the southern part of the Pacific coast.

The first day is for municipal officials, and the second day is for the public, developers, community groups, non-governmental organizations and others.

The session was announced by the Tribunal Ambiental Administrativo, which has conducted sweeps through the area and cited developers who have violated the rules.

The session is being called "Encuentro Pro Desarrollo Sostenible de Osa y la Zona Sur."

Local mayors and municipal councils have been invited to Thursday's session, which is at the Hotel Cristal Ballena in  Uvita de Osa.  The Friday session is in the community hall of Bahía Ballena in Osa.
The tribunal is an agency of the Ministerio de Ambiente, Energía y Telecomunicaciones.  Also attending will be representatives of the central government's Iniciativa Paz con la Naturaleza as well as officials from Osa, Golfito y Corredores, and experts from various disciplines.

At issue are the various visions of development there and the current problems.

The area being considered includes land on the Osa Peninsula and all along the south Pacific coast. These areas are now targeted for extensive development by private individuals, and development is causing a number of environmental problems.

In sweeps through the area the tribunal has found construction without permits, extensive earth movement that resulted in serious erosion and sediment entering waterways and the sea and destruction of trees and habitat.

The tribunal said it expected at least 100 persons at the work session for the first day.

Youth murder rates still far below other Latin countries
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Costa Rica’s murder rate continues to rise gradually but is still far below its neighbors with rates for juveniles higher than the general population but also relatively modest compared to the rest of Latin America.

Still, a Costa Rican under 18 is 13 times more likely to be murdered than a resident of France or Germany.

The data for more than 80 countries around the world were compiled by the Brazilian organization Latin American Information Technology Network RITLA.

The Costa Rican rate in 2005, the most recent year with data for juvenile murder victims, was 9.2 per 100,000 population, while the adult rate that year was 7.1 per 100,000.

The overall murder rate has increased from 7.5 in 2005 to 8.0 in 2007. Despite intense media coverage and a growing sense of citizen insecurity, the rate over the 10 years to 2007 has increased less than 35 percent.

El Salvador has become the world leader in murder and especially youth murder, largely due to gang violence. In
2005 the rate for young people was 92.3 per 100,000. Other Central American countries are similarly affected by social breakdown and gang violence, with youth rates for Guatemala 55.2 and no data available for Honduras.
Latin American countries occupy the top five spots on the list for juvenile victims, with El Salvador, Colombia, Venezuela, Guatemala, and Brazil all worse than 50 per 100,000. The United States appears in 17th place among the 83 countries and territories surveyed, with a rate of 12.9.

The report also compiles data on traffic accidents, with Costa Rica appearing in 22nd place among the countries rated at 14.7 deaths per 100,000 population. Again despite media coverage and a draconian new traffic law, that rate is actually down from 1998-2002 when there was a flood of cars into the country. Rates for the under-18 cohort track closely the overall rate. In most of the other countries in Latin America children are more likely to be victimized, as pedestrian accidents are a large part of the casualty rate.

El Salvador again appears highly ranked at 21.8 per 100,00, exceeded only by Lithuania.

Suicide rates in Costa Rica have risen modestly over the last decade but are still low by world standards.

You need to see Costa Rican tourism information HERE!

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 239

Spanish judge OKs probe of Colombian-Basque rebel ties
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A top Spanish judge has approved a request by public prosecutors for a probe of suspected links between the Basque separatist group Euskadi Ta Askatasuna, known as ETA, and Colombia's Marxist rebel movement, the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias.

National court judge Eloy Velasco acted on a petition prosecutors filed last month as they sought to indict five  Basque organization members on suspicion of collaborating with the Colombian rebels.

The prosecutors said the two groups have held joint
  training sessions in the use of explosives. They said the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias and Euskadi Ta Askatasuna have a relationship stretching back to at least 1993.

Euskadi Ta Askatasuna is blamed for more than 820 deaths in its 40-year violent campaign for the creation of an independent Basque state in northern Spain and southwestern France.

The Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias is Colombia's most powerful rebel movement.  Colombia, the United States and the European Union designate the Fuerzas Armadas as a terrorist group.

Chávez says he needs more time to build socialist economy
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has resumed his push to remove constitutional term limits that would force him to leave office when his term expires in 2013.

Sunday Chávez called on his supporters to work on a constitutional amendment that would allow him to stay in office as long as he can keep winning elections.

Last year Venezuelans narrowly rejected just such a proposal in a referendum.

Chávez told a crowd in Caracas Sunday that he is ready to stay in office until the year 2021. The president said he
needed more time in office to build a socialist economy.
During his speech, Chávez also threatened to expel a Colombian diplomat in the western city of Maracaibo. Chávez said the Colombian was working with opposition leaders in Venezuela to undermine his administration.

Colombia later said the diplomat would leave Venezuela.

Relations between the two neighboring countries soured in recent months, with Colombia accusing the Chavez government of supporting Colombian Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias rebels. Chávez at one point called the Colombian president, Álvaro Uribe, a coward and a liar. The two leaders met in July to put aside months of animosity and try to mend ties.

Canada's Harper will face a no-confidence vote Dec. 8
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Opposition political parties in Canada say they have reached a deal to bring down the minority Conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

The Liberals, New Democrats, and the Bloc Quebecois announced their coalition Monday. They accused Harper and the Conservatives of not doing enough to help Canadians cope with the global financial crisis. The opposition scheduled a Dec. 8 no-confidence vote in parliament.
To replace the government, opposition parties would have to defeat Harper's government in the confidence vote and then ask Governor-General Michaelle Jean to install them in its place.

If that scenario plays out, opposition legislators say Liberal Party leader Stephane Dion would become prime minister in a new coalition government until May.

Canada's ruling Conservative Party won the most seats in an Oct. 14 election, but it failed to win a majority of the 308 seats in parliament.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 239

Our readers opinions on revaluation, errors and immigration
Two years does not make
a predictable pattern

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

It's easy for Mr Bridges to predict the future after it happens, as he did in his letter Monday.
He said "expats will find this pattern as predictable as the sun coming up every morning," so I guess the sun didn't shine from 1997 to 2006 when the value of the colon did not increase against the dollar.
Also interesting how Mr. Bridges states that the Costa Rican central bank has devalued the dollar. I'm sure the U.S. government will be interested to hear that! What the Costa Rican central bank did was prop up the colon. There's a huge difference.
If two years out of 10 is a pattern that is guaranteed to recur, then I have a bridge to sell to Mr Bridges.
Jeff Vogel, CPA
Escazu, and
Chiang Mai, Thailand

Reader airs his gripes
about new story miscues

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Let me preface this by saying, that my day got off ominously when a trio of ne'er-do-wells chose to plant their arses just outside my living room window to celebrate the end of their weekend-long drunken binge in the pre-dawn hour before crawling in whatever hole they found to sleep it off when the sun came up.

So what I have to say to you folks can be viewed in that context or not. I have come to the conclusion that for a rag that likes to tout the astronomic increases in readership you claim to have had and the presumed financial success that goes along with it, you have done remarkably little to improve the simple mechanics of the printed word, vis-a-vis the English language.

I am constantly having to try and make sense of what the articles say, with all the errors, grammatical, numerical or otherwise. Take today for instance, in the front page article about CAFTA you have:

"Under the treaty, corporate and individuals investors have the right to international arbitration if they believe they have been treated unfairly by a host company."

By this do you mean you mean a host "country"?

Also in trying to decipher the weather article —‚ important to me as I have plans to travel — the only information pertinent to the weather forecast in my area — the north/central Pacific was:

"But Sunday it was the Pacific coast's turn. The national emergency commission said that flooding of the Río Paquita forced 50 residents of the Quepos area from their homes and into a nearby school, which is serviced as a shelter. The heavy rains there and in the Central Valley Sunday were attributed to a review of the coming cold front."

A "review"? or was it meant to say a "preview"?

Another example that leaves the reader high and dry with no real information about what the forecast is.

And  to top it all off, the belated article your loyal ex-pat readers wake up to find is the rather rude  "sorry to have to tell you this" piece regarding their money being worth less than it was last week, when your "experienced" rag, if it was on the ball, could

A.M. Costa Rica

users guide

This is a brief users guide to A.M. Costa Rica.

Old pages

Each day someone complains via e-mail that the newspages are from yesterday or the day before. A.M. Costa Rica staffers check every page and every link when the newspaper is made available at 2 a.m. each week day.

So the problem is with the browser in each reader's computer. Particularly when the connection with the  server is slow, a computer will look to the latest page in its internal memory and serve up that page.

Readers should refresh the page and, if necessary, dump the cache of their computer, if this problem persists. Readers in Costa Rica have this problem frequently because the local Internet provider has continual problems.


The A.M. Costa Rica search page has a list of all previous editions by date and a space to search for specific words and phrases. The search will return links to archived pages.


A typical edition will consist of a front page and four other newspages. Each of these pages can be reached by links near the top and bottom of the pages.


Five classified pages are updated daily. Employment listings are free, as are listings for accommodations wanted, articles for sale and articles wanted. The tourism page and the real estate sales and real estate rentals are updated daily.

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A summary of advertising rates and sizes are available for display and classifieds.


A.M. Costa Rica makes its monthly statistics available to advertisers and readers. It is HERE! 

Contacting us

Both the main telephone number and the editor's e-mail address are listed on the front page near the date.

Visiting us

Directions to our office and other data, like bank account numbers are on the about us page.

have run an article before the fact, to benefit its readers — and thereby itself, instead of giving them more fodder for a Monday morning hangover.

Well, that's "Pura Vida !"  I guess
Hari Khalsa

EDITOR'S NOTE: Mr. Khalsa, an avid reader, has pointed out errors in the past. For that we thank him and others who have done likewise. A nice fact about online publishing is that we can fix them, and we did. We also would direct his attention to the weather link at the upper right of Page One where extensive meteorological information is available.

Bronco games don't appear
and reader blames Amnet

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

When I chose Amnet to be my cable company there was one determining factor. Amnet offered the three USA network channels out of Denver. I am a Broncos football fan, so I was happy to subscribe. So far this year I have missed half of the games that should have been available. Amnet loses the network channels, for one to three days,  every time the end of the month falls on a weekend. Six times this year so far.

Amnet claims it is not their fault, that they just lose the signal. Therefore, they refuse to give any kind of credit.

It seems obvious to me that they pay their bill at the last possible moment and if it lands on a weekend, they get the service cut off. After so many times they should be able to anticipate this by now. I believe Amnet owes me for 18 days this year when I could not watch those channels. They should refund all their customers for this problem they can not get corrected.

My advise to readers, Go with Cable Tica if you are not a Broncos Fan.
Robert Savage

Immigration changes
only will draw ultra rich

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I and my partner are considering relocating to Costa Rica. It is our desire to obtain residency, buy a home, possibly start a business, invest our savings and future in Costa Rica and eventually become citizens. We are contributors. That is our nature.

The proposed Articles 78 and 80 [of the proposed immigration law] would make it almost impossible for most people to qualify financially for pensianado or rentista residencies.

In the United States corporations and companies no longer give pensions. Most workers have 401K plans, and with the current recession and stock markets the value of these plans has greatly diminished.

Social Security pays out a maximum payment to retired people of under $2,000 monthly. Therefore, no one would ever qualify under the proposed pensianado income of $2,000 monthly under Social Security. And Social Security is the only real pension plan left in the U.S.A.

Incomes of $5,000 monthly are rarely achieved by working people here in the U.S.A., and investment income of $5,000 monthly is an extremely small portion of the population, the ultra rich, less than 1 percent of our population. Therefore, the rentista requirement of an income of $5,000 monthly would eliminate any real hope of living in Costa Rica under a rentista residency.

My partner and I have combined assets which we are liquidating so that we can buy property and invest the remaining principal for investment income which would be spent in Costa Rica until we leave this world.

We would be bringing our life's savings to Costa Rica to make a commitment to Costa Rica.

We are looking at starting a business later on and becoming active community members, which includes volunteering for charities and helping people as well.

The proposed  articles 78 and 80 are going to make it impossible for us and many others like us to immigrate to Costa Rica and contribute as members of society. It is possible that people wishing to open new businesses will not be able to do so, real estate will suffer and the economy could see a downturn by many people not being allowed to reside and bring their assets with them because of the extraordinary high standards proposed for income.

The world is in a serious economic recession now and might be for some time to come. Very few people will be able to qualify for residency under these proposed standards of income for residency.

Does anyone in the legislature understand what an unrealistic standard they are considering for pensioners and rentistas? I question what the motives are for these standards as well.

If Costa Rica succeeds in attracting the ultra rich, one only has to look at Hawaii to see what happens to the local economy when this path is taken.

Hawaii is now one of the most expensive real estate markets in the world. It is full of unoccupied second and third and fourth homes of the rich. In Kauai, average home prices are over $ 1 million.

The owners of these homes are never there except one or two weeks a year. They hire no people to work for them other than a caretaker for the property. They pay no income taxes to Hawaii. They do not work there or have businesses there. Retail businesses in Hawaii do very little business with these homeowners. Currently, retail businesses in Hawaii are doing the worst business in the past 30 years. Many are closing their doors. Ala Moana Center, a large shopping complex in Honolulu is facing bankruptcy. When Hawaii became a destination for the ultra rich, the locals there suffered much pain as no new high end jobs were created, and salaries remained low and the cost of living skyrocketed. Selling out to the ultra rich can be a formula for disaster.

Countries that attract talented people of all backgrounds can build a great society in the future. Just because one is rich does not guarantee they will be contributors to such a society.

If this law passes we will retire to another more inviting country and make our contributions there.

Michael Protiva
Santa Fe, New Mexico

Jo Stuart
Real Estate
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