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These stories were published Wednesday, Dec. 3, 2003, in Vol. 3, No. 239
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A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas
You better plan on catching another bus
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Something went wrong on a bus bound for Hatillo about 1 p.m. Tuesday. A fire broke out, and within a few minutes all that was left was the charred bus shell. There were no injuries.

The driver pulled the bus over on Calle Central in front of the Clinica Carit, the San José 

maternity hospital. Before long, flames and thick black smoke were billowing into the sky.

Firemen said they suspected some form of electrical short circuit, but the bus was destroyed as were any clues to the origin of the blaze. The route is a main one from central San José to points south, so a traffic jam ensued.  Hatillo is a southern suburb.


 
Here's one creditor who's making a comeback
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

J. Duke Moseley has managed to rebound even though he was one of the most visible victims of the Villalobos Brothers downfall.

Moseley said Tuesday that he has started back at Colegio Universitario San Judas Tadeo 
medical school and is back on track with his goal of becoming a physician.

Moseley, a bilingual U.S. and Costa Rican citizen, became well known to the English-speaking community because he probed deeply into the legal case that followed the collapse of the investment operation and reported his findings in Internet forums. He

J. Duke Moseley
was highly respected for his efforts and for being a voice of reason.

Of course, he had a lot of time on his hands because the investment failure cost him near all he had earned as a businessman in Panama. He had counted on that money to put him through medical school. Had he been able to continue, he would be among the estimated 25 new physicians who will be graduated by San Judas or Saint Jude’s this month.

Moseley, 31, said that he decided to return to San Judas because the school has made great strides in eliminating problems that had caused a group of foreign students to leave two years ago. The students claimed they were not getting the quality of education they had been led to expect.

Subsequently, the U.S. State of Georgia ordered a man there to desist from recruiting for San Judas and Empresarial University, also in San José,  because the schools were not authorized to solicit for students in that state.

Moseley said that he is satisfied that San Judas is conducting a good medical program, which is why he returned there. Because he is bilingual, he never had the language problems that 

generated complaints from some of the U.S. students about monolingual instructors.

Moseley also said that San Judas is conducting some exchange programs with Harvard University’s medical school and the medical school of Tulane University, both in the United States. The school also is now listed with the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates, he noted.

The return to school was difficult for Moseley. Although he was a long-time supporter of Luis Enrique Villalobos Camacho and his brother Oswaldo, Moseley now doubts he will ever see the money that he invested with the Mall San Pedro-based business.

A friend gave him an initial loan to begin going back to school, but Moseley said he got threats from other Villalobos creditors because they thought the fugitive financier gave him the money.

But thanks to his U.S. citizenship he is eligible and has taken out a $10,500 federal educational loan that should help him through his final work at the school where he says he is about 80 percent finished. He also is exploring the possibility of accepting a commission in the U.S. armed services as a physician once he is graduated. Eventually he would like to return to work in rural Costa Rica.

Moseley and his Panamanian companion have a 2-year-old daughter, so in addition to school work he has the responsibilities of a father.

Moseley is among the more fortunate. A few of the estimated 6,600 Villalobos creditors have committed suicide. Others are living on the charity of friends. 

Luis Enrique Villalobos and his brother closed up their offices Oct. 14, 2002, about three and a half months after investigators conducted a raid July 4 of the same year. Luis Enrique has not been seen since and is listed as an international fugitive. Oswado just left detention at Clinica Catolica for house arrest.

Both are facing allegations of fraud, money laundering and illegal banking. Their investment operation paid 3 percent a month interest, and they had about $1 billion on their books in creditor money when they closed.

 
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Long-time fugitive Martínez finally is headed home from Canada
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Roberto Tovar, the nation’s chancellor, said Tuesday that Canadian authorities have reported that a judge there had denied a request by Costa Rican Jorge Martínez to block his extradition.

"We have been informed by official sources that the Federal Court of Canada had rejected the appeal presented by Jorge Martínez and ratified the order of deportation," said Tovar in a new release.

Tovar said he expected Martínez to be on Costa Rican soil by midday today. An official of Tovar’s 

Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores y Culto said that they would confirm by telephone early today that Martínez indeed had been put on a plane in the custody of security forces.

Martínez claimed before the court that his life would be in danger if he were returned to Costa Rica.

He was an official of the poverty program called Compensación Social who fled to Canada in 1999. One of the high priorities of the Costa Rican diplomatic service was to effect his return to face trial on a charge of defrauding the government of at least $1 million.


 
New readers theater
stresses presentation

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

English-speakers have an additional opportunity to express themselves theatrically with the creation of a reader’s theater at the Centro Cultural Costarricense Norteamericano.

The idea is to be presentational instead of representational, according to Betty Nichol, a Colorado transplant who is co-founder of the informal group. That means participants read their parts and there is little or no scenery or physical acting.

The next meeting of the group will be Dec. 10, from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Mark Twain Library at the center, which is in Los Yoses. Not so coincidentally, some of Twain’s works will be delivered that evening.

Anyone may attend, according to Ms. Nichol, but they should be prepared to read literature. The only technical requirement is to be a member of the library which means a small annual fee. The group is meeting twice a month, and just about any literary work in English is fair game: short stories, short plays, letters. 

Ms. Nichol said readers theater is akin to the radio theater in the period before television where actors deliver their lines in a dramatic, presentational manner but without moving around. However, she prefers the term "theater of the imagination."

"The principal intent is to convey the author's meaning, not to offer elaborate sets, costumes and staging," she said.

Frequently, the technique is a tool used by theater groups to scope out possible works for presentation either with or without an audience, she added. The presentation method is popular in England, too, including at the English Chamber Theatre, which has been presenting works since 1985 under the direction of Dame Judi Dench.

Among other works popularized by the English group is "Their Finest Hour," the dramatized letters of Franklin  Roosevelt and Winston Churchill.

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Manger scene has
Caribbean emphasis

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The portal or manger scene at the Museo Nacional has a Caribbean look this year. The museum will inaugurate the manger scene Friday at 2:30 p.m. with a pastor from a nearby Catholic church.

The event will include music and tamales, a traditional Christmas food. Performing will be the chorus from Alianza Familiar, said a release from the museum. Entry is free and open to the public.

The portal will be on display until the end of January, the museum release said. Catholicism is the official religion in Costa Rica, and nearly all public facilities erect manger scenes at Christmas.

Big haul at border
for police officials

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Fuerza Pública officers early Tuesday detained some 57 illegal Nicaraguan immigrants in several operations in the northern part of the country.

About 2 a.m. officials got a tip that three separate groups of illegal immigrants  had left several trucks before the vehicles arrived at an inspection point.

Later police stopped a Liberia-bound truck that contained 27 illegals, they said.

The illegal immigrants were headed to Liberia where they planned to take buses to San José.

The roundup came on the heels of a La Nación newspaper report Sunday that said so many illegal Nicaraguans were crossing the border that some individuals actually had erected a private toll booth at a border point where the illegals were crossing and were charging 500 colons a person, about $1.20.

Fujimori still liked
by many Peruvians

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

LIMA, Peru — The disgraced former president, Alberto Fujimori, is running second in a presidential poll taken ahead of the 2006 elections. 

Fujimori who now lives in self-imposed exile in Japan, received more than 15 percent of responses in a survey on favorite picks for the future balloting.  Of 500 respondents, 19.4 percent picked former President Alan Garcia. 

Fujimori ruled Peru from 1990 to 2000. He fled to Japan amid a corruption scandal that toppled his government. Peru wants Japan to extradite him, but Tokyo refuses to do so, saying it does not extradite its nationals. 

The former Peruvian president was granted Japanese citizenship because his parents were born in Japan. Peru and Japan do not have an extradition treaty.  Fujimori has announced from Tokyo that he is preparing for Peru's 2006 election. Lawmakers have banned him from running for office until the 2011 elections. 

Missing girl found,
and man arrested

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Police including some with dogs searched sections of Ciudad Colón Monday night and early Tuesday after a 12-year-old girl was reported missing.

The girl, Marbel Barquero García, vanished about 8 p.m. A  little more than 12 hours later, at 8:45 a.m. three units of police found the girl at a house in a nearby farm and took an 18-year-old man into custody. The girl reported that the man had kept her hidden, police said.

The girl’s parents filed a formal complaint Tuesday.

Drug arrest at airport

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Policía de Control de Drogas at Juan Santamaría Airport discovered 3.5 kilos of heroin under the false bottom of a suitcase and arrested a 35-year-old Costa Rican with the last names of Umaña Quesada,, they said Tuesday.

The man was returning from Colombia where he had traveled Nov.10, they said.

Smoke fells a fireman

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A fireman was overcomed by smoke and hospitalized Monday while fighting a blaze in a chalet-type dwelling in San José de la Montaña, Heredia, officials said. The house was destroyed.

Bad place for robbery

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two robbers picked the wrong place to practice their trade about 11 p.m. Monday.

The men snatched the purse of a woman who was walking near Casa Presidencial in Zapote. Both Fuerza Pública officers and the security staff of the Costa Rican white house pitched in to grab two suspects who were trying to leave on a motorcycle.
 
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U.S. visitors will be fingerprinted on arrival, too
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Beginning next month, everyone traveling to the United States with a U.S. visa will be fingerprinted and photographed upon arrival. It's part of an expanded homeland security program intended to better monitor the half billion foreigners who legally arrive in the United States during a typical year, and to keep out anyone who may be on a terrorist watch list. A program that had been used to track people arriving from some parts of the world had proven controversial. 

If you're coming to the United States on a U.S. visa, be prepared to be fingerprinted and photographed when you arrive at an air or seaport beginning Jan. 5. 

"It's a comprehensive entry-exit system where we will know who has arrived, what is the purpose of their visit and have they departed the United States," said Bill Strasberger, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which is expanding a program that has been used to track foreigners arriving from 25 Middle Eastern countries. 

"Overstays have been a problem in the past. This really is not that much different from systems that have already been in place in many countries around the world," he said.

The plan is all part of an increasingly rigorous and controversial system to monitor foreigners arriving in America, especially from countries "where al-Qaida and other terrorist organizations are active. "That was the first step to developing a comprehensive entry-exit system which was something that Congress mandated we develop back in 1996," said Strasberger. "Everyone coming through will have their right and left index finger [printed], as well as a digital photo taken if they're entering the United States as a visitor carrying a visa." 

Three of the Sept. 11 hijackers were in the United States illegally, on expired visas, at the time of the 2001 attacks. 

This expanded program to monitor foreigners in the country has been used for the past year to track mostly Middle Eastern males, who until Tuesday had been required to periodically reregister as long as they remained in the United States. As of September, nearly 200,000 people were registered. Hundreds of others have been deported, most for overstaying their visas. Officials say the old program was eliminated to make way for the new system that will include anyone traveling on a visa. Officials defend the program. 

"We want to know who is arriving in the United States, where they're going, and to make sure that we know that they've departed the United States," the spokesman said. 

But the plan has been criticized by minority and civil rights groups. "The program is discriminatory in its design because it focuses on people based on their country of origin," said Lucas Guttentag, director of immigration rights at the American Civil Liberties Union, "based on their nationality, essentially Muslim countries around the world, and it assumes that anybody from those countries is a threat to the United States." 

But U.S. immigration officials have long been under pressure, especially from Congress, to keep better track of foreigners after they enter the United States. Last year, a Congressional investigation found that nearly half of the 4,100 registered immigrants in the United States wanted for questioning in connection with the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks could not be found. Still not known is how effective this new system for tracking foreigners will be or whether it will further discourage travel to the United States, which has fallen off sharply in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks. 

The U.S. Embassy in San José demonstrated a fingerprinting system two weeks ago and said that already it was taking prints of visa applicants. The fingerprinting and photography upon arrival is used as a comparison to make sure that person who accepted and got a visa is the same person entering the country.


 
Foes of Chavez say they have enough signatures
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

CARACAS, Venezuela — The political opposition says it has collected enough signatures to demand a recall of populist President Hugo Chavez. 

Hundreds of Venezuelans rallied late Monday near here to celebrate what they called a massive turnout for its four-day petition drive. Chavez opponents shot fireworks into the sky and waved blue, yellow and red Venezuelan flags. 

Hundreds of the president's supporters held a rival rally in front of the presidential palace. 

An opposition newspaper, El Nuevo Pais, said the opposition had collected by Sunday more than the 

2.5 million signatures it needed for a referendum. The National Elections Council has 30 days to verify the results of the four-day signature drive. 

President Chavez called the opposition signature drive a mega-fraud. He said there were inconsistencies between signatures and electoral rolls and said signers had been pressured. 

Venezuela's constitution allows the president to be recalled after the mid-point in his term. If enough signatures are verified, a recall vote could be held in March or April. 

Chavez enjoys support from impoverished Venezuelans. But critics accuse of the president of ruining the nation's economy. 

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