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These stories were published Monday, Dec. 8, 2003, in Vol. 3, No. 242
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Police plan video surveillance of downtown
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Passers-by in downtown San José will be on television soon whether they know it or not.

The Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública is enlisting the aid of Radiográphica Costarricense S.A. and the Municipalidad de San José for the project.

The first word on the plan came in an invitation to newspeople from the ministry for a press conference that is planned for noon today.

The ministry release called the idea a new weapon in the fight against crime and called the cameras "electronic police."

The release said that the cameras will be set up in strategic points in the commercial sector of the capital and in locations where there is a high incidence of crime.

At the session today will be Rogelio Ramos, minister of Seguridad Pública; Walter Navarro, 

director general of the Fuerza Pública; and Johnny Araya, the mayor of San José.

The conference that will provide details of the plan will be at the office of Radiographic Costarricense S.A., called RACSA, suggesting that the images from the cameras downtown will be carried by Internet transmissions.

Channel 7 Teletica now has cameras set up at key intersections in the Central Valley to keep an eye on traffic there. At least one bar popular with tourists has a continuous transmission of images fed to the Internet.

Internet transmission generally is far cheaper than conventional television technology. However, the idea of police monitoring movements by citizens has met with some resistance elsewhere. At best, camera images can be used to identify criminals the way that security cameras in private stores are used now. However, most of the crime in the downtown is done with great speed, and the criminals get away before police can intervene.

Ramos leads crackdown at northern border
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Security officials have cracked down on illegal activity at the country’s most important northern entry point: Peñas Blancas.

Four Fuerza Pública officers have been separated from their jobs after officials said they were filmed accepting money from illegal immigrants from Nicaragua at the border point.

In another case, a former policeman and a second man have been placed under investigation by prosecutors in Liberia for possible trafficking in persons, said a report from the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública.

Rogelio Ramos, the minister, went to Peñas Blancas Friday and said that an undetermined number of police officials were being investigated for possible irregularities. In addition to smuggling illegal immigrants, officials are worried about smuggling illegal or untaxed goods as well as drugs.

"We will not permit acts of corruption, We will apply a heavy hand against those responsible, and I have ordered sanctions with all the weight of the law," said Ramos.

Ramos destroyed with his own hands a shack that smugglers of illegal immigrants had been using a few feet from the northern frontier, said the ministry, adding that he ordered the Fuerza Pública to keep the area under 24-hour surveillance.

There is not a single spot in the world where the state renounces its borders, said Ramos just 

before he cut fence wires that the people who transport illegal immigrants, so-called coyotes, had strung around an informal entry point. The location was popularized when La Nación published a photo Nov. 30 of the location where smugglers of illegal immigrants were charging a 500-colon fee for people to cross the border. 

The sharp orders from Ramos paid off about 12:45 p.m. Friday when officers detained a man at Santa Cecilia between the major city of Liberia and Peñas Blancas. Policía de Control de Drogas said the man, identified by the last names of Torres Torres, was carrying 14 kilos (about 31 pounds) of cocaine.

Specifically, Ramos issued a number of orders. Among these was to crack down on pirate taxis and other vehicles that were not licensed to carry passengers. Such vehicles are used to transport illegal immigrants, usually from the border to Liberia where the new arrivals take a bus to the Central Valley.

In addition, he said that police and immigration agents will maintain a 24-hour watch on all parts of the border. And he said he would seek help from the Departamento de Control de Radio to eliminate the use of radios with the police radio frequencies by taxi drivers and the vehicles of individuals. These radios are used by smugglers, he said.

On the political front, Ramos said he would again seek quick action by legislative leaders to pass a law that creates a special penalty for coyotes. The penalty, part of a rewrite of the immigration laws, has been languishing in the Asamblea Nacional for nearly a year, Ramos said.

 
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Arbitration court gets
validated by nation

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica has signed an agreement with the Permanent Court of Arbitration to allow the international body to locate its Latin American regional headquarters here.

The court has had a presence in Costa Rica since 2001, but the agreement, which must be approved by the Asamblea Nacional, finalizes the status of the arbitration center here.

The court is located at the University for Peace near Ciudad Colón. The agreement Friday was signed by Tjaco van den Hout, secretary general of the court in The Hague, and Roberto Tovar, Costa Rican chancellor. The original agreement with the court was signed two years ago by former Chancellor Roberto Rojas. Vice President Lineth Saborío witnessed the agreement.

This is the first regional headquarters for the court outside The Hague. Tovar heads the Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores y Culto.

The court will be able to help governments, agencies and individuals to resolve disputes via arbitration, mediation and similar methods.

The court is "an indispensable tool in search of a more just international order, and through the establishment of a regional center in Costa Rica, our country will be able to contribute more actively in the construction of a more peaceful and secure world," said Vice President Saborío.

The court’s Web site says: 

".  . . the regional facility is well-positioned to meet the rapidly evolving dispute resolution needs of the Latin American region. Recent developments and legislation in a number of Latin American countries have made the legal environment more hospitable to arbitration and other alternative methods of dispute resolution."
 

Pacheco’s statistics
on tourism dated

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President Abel Pacheco hit the airwaves again Sunday touting a 6.1 percent increase in tourist arrivals during his weekly electronic message, and he did so in Miami, Fla., where he is attending a meeting of Caribbean officials.

The only trouble is that Pacheco’s statistics were not up to date and less thrilling than officials would wish. As A.M. Costa Rica reported Oct. 31, tourist arrivals by air at the nations two international airports did increase 6.1 percent from January to May, but that is in comparison with January to May 2002, the period following the terrorist attacks Sept. 11, 2001, in the United States.

In fact, when compared with the first five months of 2001, tourism arrivals are down. Here are the numbers as provided by the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo:

2001: 386,532
2002: 360,325
2003: 382,417.

The first five months of 2002 actually was down 6.8 percent when compared to 2001.

The good news for Costa Rican tourism operators is that more tourists came to Costa Rica in April and May 2003 than did so in either of those months in 2001 or 2002.

Pacheco in Miami lauded the tourism institute for attracting 65 new flights a week to the nation. The airlines include U.S. Airways, American West, Condor, British West Indies, Air Canada and Delta.

However, most of these flights are not reflected in the most current statistics available from the tourism institute. The January to May statistics were released only Oct. 30.
 

Theater group needs
two more actors

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Little Theatre Group needs a man and a woman, both around 30 to 45, to round out the cast for "The Mysterious Mr. Love" by Karoline Leach, which will be presented in February and early March.

Tryouts for the parts will be Oct. 14 at 1 p.m. at the Blanche Brown Theatre in Bello Horizonte. The group also said it needs a costume designer and people to help with lights and special effects as well as a backstage crew.

Information is available at  273-0747.

Dominican Republic
lashed by Odette

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic— Thousands of people here have abandoned their homes as the leading edge of Tropical Storm Odette lashes this island nation with torrential rain and winds of up to 100 kms. per hour (60 mph).

As Odette churned off the southern Dominican coast, officials evacuated more than 10,000 residents along the banks of swelling rivers and opened the floodgates of three dams. 

Odette is the first tropical storm on record to hit the Caribbean in December. It is expected to bring up to 25 cms. (10 inches) of rain to parts of the island of Hispaniola, which the Dominican Republic shares with Haiti. Last month, heavy rains soaked the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, forcing thousands to flee their homes and causing seven deaths.

Castro says socialism
will survive him

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

HAVANA, Cuba — President Fidel Castro says his socialist system will survive him. Castro made the comment Friday, as he helped celebrate the 10th birthday of shipwreck survivor Elian Gonzalez.

Elian was thrust to the center of an international custody battle four years ago after he was found clinging to an inner tube in waters off the coast of Florida. 

In a two-hour speech delivered at the young boy's school in Cardenas, Castro said Cuba's revolution does not depend on one, two or three individuals. 

Castro's inevitable death someday and its likely effect on Cuba's future are a constant source of speculation in Cuba and abroad. The 77-year-old leader, who will celebrate 45 years in power this New Year's Day, is the world's longest-ruling head of government and leader of only four remaining socialist countries in the world.

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Villalobos backers seek to rally unhappy creditors
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The group of creditors who support Luis Enrique Villalobos has set up a committee to encourage other creditors to withdraw fraud charges against the fugitive financier.

Henk Guichelaar of Longview, Texas, sent out an e-mail Saturday that listed the names and citizenships of 221 persons who have filed fraud charges against Luis Enrique Villalobos. Guichelaar said that a volunteer committee would seek to contact these individuals. The list is of individuals for which the committee does not have contact information, Guichelaar said.

The e-mail seeks the contact information on the persons, said Guichelaar.

The contact may also be to seek funds. Guichelaar said that only six members of his informal group United and Concerned Citizens of Costa Rica are pressing their fraud claims. The group has to raise another $100,000 to pay José Miguel Villalobos Umaña, their lawyer.

A report on the group’s Web page shows that only $6,500 has been paid to the lawyer Villalobos as part of his second $100,000 fee. In all, the lawyer negotiated a $300,000 fee agreement with the informal group. An additional $13,158 in checks have not cleared, said the Web site.

This is the group that says Luis Enrique Villalobos will return and pay them the money they gave him when and if criminal allegations against him are lifted. Now Luis Enrique Villalobos is an international fugitive, and his brother, Oswaldo, has been allowed to return home under house arrest. Both were involved with the private borrowing operation and the associated money exchange house, Ofinter S.A., according to the Judicial Investigating Organization.

Some investors consider these supporters of Luis Enrique and Oswaldo to be naive. Many of the creditors associated with the United and Concerned Citizens think Luis Enrique Villalobos closed his 

business Oct., 14, 2002, because Costa Rican 
investigators had frozen his bank account. However, Guichelaar told one investor that the older Villalobos moved a substantial amount of cash out of his Mall San Pedro operation just before he closed down.

"A truck was backed up against the door to his ‘vault’ which opens to one of the parking levels at Mall San Pedro and our interest money (and then some) was taken to a safe place where it is to this day," he told another creditor May 9. Guichelaar has declined to respond to A.M. Costa Rica questions as to how he knows this information.

Villalobos paid his creditors 3 percent a month or more and had done so for a number of years until Costa Rican officials raided his office and several offices of Ofinter July 4, 2002.

Meanwhile, José Villalobos, the lawyer, has told his clients that an appeals court is reviewing the ruling that allowed Oswaldo Villalobos to go home to house arrest. Walter Espinoza, the narcotrafficking prosecutor who is in charge of the Villalobos case, appealed a judge’s order that Oswaldo could go home. Villalobos, the lawyer, said the appeals judge asked the lower court judge for additional justification.

Oswaldo Villalobos has refused to discuss the case with investors who contacted him while he was in prison, in Clinica Catolica or at his home.

Enrique Villalobos claimed that the money exchange business was separate from his private borrowing operation, but investigators say the operation was a single entity with Oswaldo having management authority in the borrowing operation, too.

Of the estimated 6,600 individuals, couples and financial entities that gave Luis Enrique Villalobos money, only some 600 have filed charges. They range from an Escazú man who is reported to have given Villalobos $16 million to a California woman who gave $8 million to countless expats and others who gave the minimum of $10,000.


 
Chavez says petition drive to oust him was riddled with fraud
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

CARACAS, Venezuela — President Hugo Chavez says a referendum to oust him from office cannot be held unless every signature needed to hold the recall vote is verified. 

He made that remark on his weekly radio program, "Hello President." Venezuela's political opposition has said it collected 3.6 million signatures, far more than what was needed to hold the referendum.  But President Chavez has accused his opponents of committing fraud during the petition drive, saying signers had been pressured. 

Election officials are verifying the signatures and are expected to decide next month whether to 

proceed with the referendum, which would be held in March or April. 

Thousands of people rallied Saturday here to show support for Chavez. But recent polls show two-thirds of Venezuelans would vote against him in a referendum.  Opponents of Chavez have accused him of ruining the nation's economy, which is suffering from high inflation.

Supporters of the president waved banners and shouted pro-government slogans as they marched Saturday into Altamira Square in eastern Caracas, traditionally controlled by opponents of Chavez.
Local mayor Leopoldo Lopez says he was forced to flee the plaza when Chavez supporters began throwing objects at him.

Villalobos backers seek to rally unhappy creditors
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The group of creditors who support Luis Enrique Villalobos has set up a committee to encourage other creditors to withdraw fraud charges against the fugitive financier.

Henk Guichelaar of Longview, Texas, sent out an e-mail Saturday that listed the names and citizenships of 221 persons who have filed fraud charges against Luis Enrique Villalobos. Guichelaar said that a volunteer committee would seek to contact these individuals. The list is of individuals for which the committee does not have contact information, Guichelaar said.

The e-mail seeks the contact information on the persons, said Guichelaar.

The contact may also be to seek funds. Guichelaar said that only six members of his informal group United and Concerned Citizens of Costa Rica are pressing their fraud claims. The group has to raise another $100,000 to pay José Miguel Villalobos Umaña, their lawyer.

A report on the group’s Web page shows that only $6,500 has been paid to the lawyer Villalobos as part of his second $100,000 fee. In all, the lawyer negotiated a $300,000 fee agreement with the informal group. An additional $13,158 in checks have not cleared, said the Web site.

This is the group that says Luis Enrique Villalobos will return and pay them the money they gave him when and if criminal allegations against him are lifted. Now Luis Enrique Villalobos is an international fugitive, and his brother, Oswaldo, has been allowed to return home under house arrest. Both were involved with the private borrowing operation and the associated money exchange house, Ofinter S.A., according to the Judicial Investigating Organization.

Some investors consider these supporters of Luis Enrique and Oswaldo to be naive. Many of the creditors associated with the United and Concerned Citizens think Luis Enrique Villalobos closed his 

business Oct., 14, 2002, because Costa Rican 
investigators had frozen his bank account. However, Guichelaar told one investor that the older Villalobos moved a substantial amount of cash out of his Mall San Pedro operation just before he closed down.

"A truck was backed up against the door to his ‘vault’ which opens to one of the parking levels at Mall San Pedro and our interest money (and then some) was taken to a safe place where it is to this day," he told another creditor May 9. Guichelaar has declined to respond to A.M. Costa Rica questions as to how he knows this information.

Villalobos paid his creditors 3 percent a month or more and had done so for a number of years until Costa Rican officials raided his office and several offices of Ofinter July 4, 2002.

Meanwhile, José Villalobos, the lawyer, has told his clients that an appeals court is reviewing the ruling that allowed Oswaldo Villalobos to go home to house arrest. Walter Espinoza, the narcotrafficking prosecutor who is in charge of the Villalobos case, appealed a judge’s order that Oswaldo could go home. Villalobos, the lawyer, said the appeals judge asked the lower court judge for additional justification.

Oswaldo Villalobos has refused to discuss the case with investors who contacted him while he was in prison, in Clinica Catolica or at his home.

Enrique Villalobos claimed that the money exchange business was separate from his private borrowing operation, but investigators say the operation was a single entity with Oswaldo having management authority in the borrowing operation, too.

Of the estimated 6,600 individuals, couples and financial entities that gave Luis Enrique Villalobos money, only some 600 have filed charges. They range from an Escazú man who is reported to have given Villalobos $16 million to a California woman who gave $8 million to countless expats and others who gave the minimum of $10,000.


 
Chavez says petition drive to oust him was riddled with fraud
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

CARACAS, Venezuela — President Hugo Chavez says a referendum to oust him from office cannot be held unless every signature needed to hold the recall vote is verified. 

He made that remark on his weekly radio program, "Hello President." Venezuela's political opposition has said it collected 3.6 million signatures, far more than what was needed to hold the referendum.  But President Chavez has accused his opponents of committing fraud during the petition drive, saying signers had been pressured. 

Election officials are verifying the signatures and are expected to decide next month whether to 

proceed with the referendum, which would be held in March or April. 

Thousands of people rallied Saturday here to show support for Chavez. But recent polls show two-thirds of Venezuelans would vote against him in a referendum.  Opponents of Chavez have accused him of ruining the nation's economy, which is suffering from high inflation.

Supporters of the president waved banners and shouted pro-government slogans as they marched Saturday into Altamira Square in eastern Caracas, traditionally controlled by opponents of Chavez.
Local mayor Leopoldo Lopez says he was forced to flee the plaza when Chavez supporters began throwing objects at him.

Patriot Act called unfair to foreign nationals in U.S.
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The worst provisions of the USA Patriot Act allow the government to exclude foreign nationals for their views, to deport foreign nationals for their innocent association with any group the government doesn't like, and gives the attorney general the power to lock up foreign nationals without charges and without showing to a court that they're dangerous or a threat to national security.

That is the view of David Cole, an author who wrote a book on the topic. He debated Viet Dinh, the principal architect of the anti-terror law, at a Council of Foreign Relations forum here last week.

Dinh rejected Cole's suggestions and said that detentions of foreign nationals had not been preventative or arbitrary. Instead, he said each arrest was based on a clear violation of the law.

Congress adopted the Patriot Act shortly after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, in an effort to shore up domestic security. Both of the men are professors at Georgetown University Law Center.

The focus of the debate was upon the differing legal standards the act establishes for U.S. citizens and foreign nationals. Dinh argued that such a differentiation is to be expected. 

"That is of necessity because we are not a global community. Rather we are a community made up of discrete nation states which divide themselves into communities by distinguishing themselves with the borders," he said.

Furthermore, he maintained that the act is justified in its attempt to differentiate between the motives of different foreign nationals.

"There has to be a distinction between those who would seek to come to this country as asylum seekers, seeking the flame of freedom, against those who would seek to come to this country in order to destroy the promise of freedom," he said.

Patriot Act critic Cole acknowledged the fundamental legal distinctions between U.S. citizens and foreign nationals, but said the Patriot Act raises concerns about human rights.

"What I am suggesting is that with respect to basic human rights — like the freedom not to be locked up arbitrarily — with respect to that kind of a right, there is no distinction," he said.

Cole drew upon material from his recent book, "Enemy Aliens: Double Standards and Constitutional Freedoms in the War on Terror," to argue that the greatest weakness in the Patriot Act is the double standard it sets in its attempt to redefine the balance between liberties and security in the United States.

"We have not, for the most part, been willing to give up our liberties in the name of preserving greater security, but have instead chosen the option of taking the liberties of foreign nationals, and especially Arab and Muslim foreign nationals, for the purported security of the rest of us," he said.

Cole maintained that "The worst provisions of the Patriot Act ... allow the government to exclude foreign nationals for their speech, to deport foreign nationals for their innocent association with any group [Attorney General] John Ashcroft doesn't like, and give the attorney general the power to lock up foreign nationals without charges and without showing to a court that they're dangerous or a threat to national security."

He argued that this double standard is wrong "because the rights we're denying here are not rights of citizens. They are human rights. The right not to be locked up without a justification, the right of association, the right of speech —  these rights in the Constitution extend to persons, to people, not to citizens. These are understood as human rights."

However Dinh rejected Cole's suggestion that the arrests had been arbitrary or simply preventative, underscoring the fact that such measures would be patently unconstitutional. 

He said, "Each and every single person who has been detained by our law enforcement agency in the jurisdiction of the United States has been so detained and arrested based upon an individualized predicate — either an allegation of violation of criminal law or an allegation of violation of our immigration law. As I said, there is no legal, constitutional or moral right to violate the laws of the United States."

Dinh acknowledged that most of these individuals were detained and charged on criminal and immigration violations not related to terrorism but maintained that "when we're dealing with potential terrorist suspects, those persons classified as "of interest to 9/11," I do hope that our government would use its prosecutorial discretion to the fullest extent to remove those persons based upon infractions of the law, legitimate convictions and normal processes of the law, in order to remove them from the street and the civilities upon which they would do harm."

Cole, however, said the application of the law has not proven effective.

"The administration has, in the name of fighting terrorism, locked up, subjected to preventive detention, over 5,000 foreign nationals by their own count," he said. "And of those 5,000 foreign nationals, how many have been identified as al-Qaeda people? Zero. How many have been charged with 9/11? Zero. How many have been charged with any crime related to terrorism? Only three, and of those three, two were acquitted of the terrorist charges."

Dinh riposted with different statistics, supporting the value of the Patriot Act.

"According to Justice Department numbers, the U.S. government has deported approximately 500 persons since 9/11 who were associated or connected with the 9/11 investigations. Approximately 300 other persons were charged criminally with the allegation of criminal misconduct. [They, too] were connected with 9/11 [investigations]. Approximately half of these people have pled guilty or been convicted."


 
Police question children of murdered U.S. couple
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil — Brazilian police have interviewed the two eldest children of an American oil executive who was murdered along with his wife in their luxury condominium here. 

U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation agents sent to observe the case were not allowed to be present. Statements by the children, a boy aged 10 and a girl, 13, have not been released. 

Todd Staheli was hacked to death in his bedroom Nov. 30 by what police now believe was a small axe. His wife, Michele, died Thursday from her wounds after emergency brain surgery. 

There were no signs of forced entry, a fight or robbery at their heavily guarded home near a Rio de Janeiro beach. But the security fence alarm around the property was turned off the day of the murders.

Police now say forensic evidence indicates there may have been two attackers. 

The daughter had said earlier that her father received a threatening work-related phone call days before the murder. But Staheli's employer, the Shell Oil Co., says he did not report any unusual stress or job-related pressures. Staheli was Shell's vice president for joint ventures in natural gas and power in southern Latin America. The Stahelis also had two younger daughters.

Police are testing blood from the murder victims' bodies for drugs. Staheli's work and home computers are also being examined.

Brazil's state tourism authority says the murders are an isolated case and should not discourage foreigners from coming to Brazil. Although Rio suffers from endemic crime, it is rare for foreigners to fall victim to violence within the confines of their high security homes.

Satanic cult figures in murder case acquittals
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

BELEM, Brazil — A Brazilian court Friday acquitted the alleged leader of a Satanic cult of charges that she planned and ordered the ritual mutilation and murder of boys in a remote Amazon town. 

Friday's decision by jury came after a 17-day trial in Para State here. The verdict brought tumult, tears and protests from the victims' families. 

The 72-year-old defendant, Valentina de Andrade, fainted after the verdict was read. Her lawyers made no comment, but the prosecution said it would appeal. 

She was accused of ordering the murder of three boys and the castration of two others in the western Amazon city of Altamira between 1989 and 1993. Reports on the gruesome murders shocked Brazil and sparked widespread fear in the farming community in the heart of the Amazon rainforest. 

Four other defendants have already been sentenced in the case to prison terms ranging from 35 to 77 years. They included two doctors. The four are all appealing their sentences. 
The victims' families say there were 19 victims in all, boys aged 8 to 13 that they say were kidnapped, tortured or killed in Altamira. 


 
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