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These stories were published Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2001

It's big markdown time 
down at the U.S. Embassy

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Uncle Sam is having a big garage sale, and you might be able to find some deals. But be prepared to be frisked.

The big sale is at the U.S. Embassy warehouse just several blocks from the embassy itself in Pavas.  But there has been only minimal advertising, and the location is not obvious to those who would show up to make a deal.

The deal has to be made on paper and submitted in the form of a bid on predetermined lots of merchandise well marked in the warehouse. Embassy personnel will pick the best bids Thursday. Each would-be buyer has been asked to deposit 25,000 colons ( about $73) to show their good faith.

Today is the last day to take a look at the goodies, and Friday and Saturday have been designated pickup day for the winning bidders.

You can tell the embassy warehouse because it is the only building in the neighborhood on Avenida 4 south of the railroad tracks with razorwire atop the iron bars. The location is some 200 meters west of the Jack’s food processing plant, and there are guards galore.

Just to enter the warehouse requires a body search and an inspection of bags. The warehouse itself is a smaller version of the government storage area made famous in one of the final scenes of "Raiders of the Lost Ark."

You won’t find the Ark, but you will find a Hotpoint refrigerator and a washer bundled together as Lot #70 with a minimum bid of 75,000 colons ($220). There is an Ethan Allen highboy, a big mirror, a bookcase and a lamp with a minimum bid of 60,000 colons ($176). 

Decent furniture brand names abound, but the pick of the litter is Lot # 19 with seven garden tables, 21 chairs, three recliners, seven umbrellas and a glass table with a minimum bid of 30,000 colons ($88) just in time for garden party season.

All the objects in the embassy sale are used, and the U.S. government gives no guarantees. But an electric forklift truck priced at a minimum bid of 500,000 colons ($1,470) turns right on.

Need some tires? One lot includes 180 air conditioner filters and 29 used tires. 

Three six-foot bookcases are priced at 30,000 colons ($88).

You will find computers bundled with fax machines, plus a whole box of Nokia cellular telephones, including some still in the original carton.

How about a General Electric video camera, battery included, a FAX machine and a stereo system with all the bells and whistles at a minimum 40,000 colon ($117) bid?

Of course, the usual file cabinets, office dividers and computer desks come in a variety of shapes and sizes.

An attendant said that the embassy holds about two such sales a year. This time there was a small announcement in La Nación, but that was enough to attract a steady stream of lookers and bidders Tuesday. 

Some of the better items are not up for sale. A long shelf of elegant small tables is marked as being reserved for the next sale. Nine dirt bikes are not on the block. And a new dining room set sits nearby still in plastic wrap not for sale.

Wife arrested in death
of U.S. citizen husband

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Investigators have detained the 36-year-old wife of a U.S. citizen who was the apparent victim of a murder a week ago.

They characterized the woman as a suspect and said that she had been identified in a police lineup as having been near the scene where her husband appears to have been dumped about 4 a.m. Dec. 4.

The dead man is now identified as Donald Edward Kerr, 70, of Alajuela. He had been incorrectly identified as Durr in an earlier story.

Police said Kerr was found badly hurt by someone traveling the road from Balsa to Atenas. That person called for an ambulance that took the injured man to the Hospital de Alajuela. Because of the gravity of his injuries, he was transferred to Hospital México, where he died about 10:40 a.m. Dec. 4.

Agents of the Judicial Investigating Organization from Alajuela began to investigate the death as a hit-and-run motor vehicle accident, but they were unable to identify the victim who carried no papers and who had suffered severe and disfiguring wounds to the head.

Police conducted an analysis of the area where Kerr had been found, and they were unable to locate any tire treads, broken glass or any other indications that a motor vehicle accident had taken place. Nor were they able to find any automobile paint or other evidence of an accident on the clothes of the dead man.

A preliminary  autopsy also showed that the head wounds were inconsistent with injuries to a person being stuck by a car.  The wounds to the man’s head were so severe that he was not easily recognized, and this further  hampered the investigation, police said.

Meanwhile, the day after he died his wife, identified at that time as Rodríguez, filed a report with local police saying that her husband was missing. Police did not immediately connect the two cases.

But after the traffic accident scenario was ruled out, police said they began to develop sufficient evidence that linked a woman to the scene.

The wife surrendered herself to investigators in Alajuela about 3:45 p.m. Monday where an order from the office of the prosecutor, the fiscal, caused her to be held.

Now police are trying to piece together the events leading up to the man’s injuries. A source close to the investigation said that witnesses saw a woman near the scene but they did not see her actually place the man on the road, thereby raising speculation that others may have been involved.
Two bus drivers fight,
and one is fatally shot

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two drivers got into a dispute when one man drove his bus into the bus of the other in Santa Isabel de Río Cuarto de Grecia.

The dispute escalated until one man pulled a gun and shot the other. The victim, identified by the last name Alvarez, 48, died Monday night of his wounds, said investigators. He suffered two bullets to the stomach and other wounds. 

The other bus driver whose name was not available was detained. It was his bus that was hit about 8:30 a.m. Monday, police said. Police said both men own their buses and contracted to the local bus company.

Man sets
for being
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A Texas man early Tuesday set the world’s record for not getting very far out of a bar before being robbed while being drunk. Three women rolled him while he stood in the doorway of the New York Bar, he said Tuesday. 

The man from Corpus Christi has been in Costa Rica for about a month. He was en route from the bar, a well-known hangout for English-speakers, to the Hotel Morazan a scant 50 feet west. Both locations are on the north side of Avenida 1 between calles 7 and 9.

The man freely admits he was drunk. So he said he did not fight back much when the three tall women grabbed him and one snatched his money clip from his left pants pocket about 2 a.m.

He said he lost about 4,000 to 5,000 colons (about $12 to  $15), and he was unhappy the most about the money clip that had little monetary value but had been a gift 30 years ago.

The man, who did not give his name and also did not file a report with the police, said he thought he recognized one of the women as a prostitute who works nearby, but because of the dark and his condition he could not be sure.

Others more familiar with the Zona Roja or Red Zone in the center of San José suggest that the three women might have been three men because the area is frequented by many transvestites who work the streets. Generally the men dressed as women are more bold when it comes to being out late or to being in more crime-ridden parts of town.

Sometimes bands of up to 10 provocatively dressed transvestites can be seen in the area late at night long after the female prostitutes have left.

Municipal lawyer contends
board game illegal in public

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Playing backgammon on the streets of San José is illegal unless the players have a permit, according to a lawyer for the municipality.

The lawyer is Rosa Lía Cuberro Pérez. She was responding to an incident Saturday in which two municipal policemen told two French tourist to stop playing while they were seated on public benches in front of the Teatro Nacional in downtown San José.

The lawyer is a member of the legal department of the municipality. She responded in person early Tuesday. Later, when contacted by telephone and politely asked if chess and other board games also were illegal, she hung up the telephone.

Another lawyer consulted by A.M. Costa Rica contradicted the lawyer for San José and said he had no information that would suggest that playing board games in public is illegal.

The issue came up because the two municipal policeman on patrol Saturday about 2 p.m. in front of the Teatro Nacional cracked down on the tourists, a man and a women, who had dined at the nearby Gran Hotel Costa Rica restaurant and were quietly playing the board game.

The two tourists were mystified at the time. Then the policemen threatened to take the video camera of a tourist from Florida who was seated nearby. They may have thought he had filmed their encounter with the French couple, although he later said he had filmed nothing.

The policemen claimed that the tourist had shown a lack of respect for filming them without their consent. The municipal policemen wear gray uniforms and are not to be confused with the Fuerza Publica, whose members wear blue.

International data base 
to track terrorist financing

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Treasury and the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol) have announced plans to create a terrorist financing database that will help curb the flow of money to terrorist groups and assist police in their criminal investigations.

Treasury Under Secretary for Enforcement Jimmy Gurulé and Interpol Secretary General Ronald K. Noble announced their joint undertaking at Interpol headquarters in Lyon, France, Tuesday.

According to a U.S. Treasury news release, both officials were optimistic that the database could be operational within 60 days.

Noble called on each of Interpol's 179 member countries to identify information on terrorist financing networks. The database would also consolidate international and national lists of terrorist financiers and make it available to law enforcement officials around the world.

"Interpol is committed to both the fight against terrorism and the funds that make such heinous acts possible" Noble said. "We are dedicated to the task of shutting down funds earmarked for terror."

Big vote in Trinidad
results in a firm tie

By A.M. Costa Rica wire services

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad — Trinidadian Prime Minister Basdeo Panday has offered to share power with the opposition to resolve a political crisis sparked by a tie in Monday's parliamentary election. 

Panday made the offer Tuesday after meeting with opposition leader Patrick Manning here to discuss the issue. The talks took place at the home of President Arthur Robinson, who asked the two men to begin a dialogue on how best to resolve the situation. Manning said he expects a government to be formed later this week. 

The deadlock occurred after results showed the prime minister's United National Congress party and the opposition People's National Movement each won 18 seats in the 36-member parliament. Although two recounts have been ordered, the results are expected to remain the same. 

The elections took place one year after Prime Minister Panday won a second term. In effect, the polling was a referendum on Panday, who called the election after disputes within his party threatened to end its slim majority in Parliament.  The balloting has sharpened tensions between citizens of East Indian and African descent in Trinidad and Tobago. 

Panday is the twin island nation's first prime minister of East Indian ancestry. His United National Congress is generally supported by citizens of Indian descent, while blacks generally back the People's National Movement. 

Trinidad and Tobago is divided almost evenly between descendants of African slaves and East Indians who were brought to the country as laborers after slavery was abolished. 

Software pirates
targeted in sweep 

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON — Law enforcement officials in the United States and overseas executed more than 100 search warrants Tuesday in a major crackdown on the illegal transfer of software, computer games and movies over the Internet, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Three separate operations — code-named "Buccaneer," "Bandwidth" and "Digital Piratez" — struck at all aspects of the so-called "WAREZ" community, a group of software thieves who specialize in the duplication and reproduction of copyrighted software over the Internet, the department said in a news release.

U.S. officials say the WAREZ community and its member groups are believed to be responsible for 95 percent of Internet sites containing pirated software. Business losses due to software piracy are estimated to exceed $12 billion worldwide.

"The execution of these search warrants marks the completion of the most extensive software piracy undercover investigation that the Federal Bureau of Investigation has participated in to date, and should send the message that trafficking in stolen goods — whether the property is in physical or electronic form — is a serious crime and will be prosecuted," FBI Director Robert Mueller said in the release.

The largest operation was Buccaneer, which involved the simultaneous execution of 58 search warrants against high-level WAREZ members in the United States and overseas and is the first enforcement action to reach across international borders, the department said.

Agents will continue to pursue additional targets in the months ahead, officials said.

Chavez calls strike
a conspiracy by foes

By A.M. Costa Rica wire services

CARACAS, Venezuela — Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has denounced as a "conspiracy" a nationwide strike held Monday to protest his economic policies.

President Chavez Tuesday called the 12-hour work stoppage an attempt to destabilize the country. More than 90 percent of Venezuelan businesses participated in the effort, bringing the capital, Caracas, and other major cities to a near standstill.

The country's main business association, Fedecamaras, called the strike to protest 49 laws Chavez decreed without consulting businesses or Congress. The measures affect industries such as agriculture, fishing and oil.

Fedecamaras says the laws are not constitutional, that they restrict free enterprise and violate the principle of private property. But the Venezuelan leader says the legislation will help alleviate the country's widespread poverty.

Chavez promoted one of the disputed measures, the fishing law, Tuesday with Cuban President Fidel Castro by his side as a special guest. The event took place on Venezuela's Margarita Island, where the two leaders are attending a summit of the Association of Caribbean States.

The two-day conference, which opened Tuesday, is aimed at strengthening regional cooperation.

Argentina stopping
multiple bank accounts

By A.M. Costa Rica wire services

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — The government here plans to restrict the number of bank accounts per person to two, as part of a new measure to restrict the amount of money withdrawn from banks to prevent a crisis in the financial sector. 

The plan comes after a sudden flight of deposits earlier this month led the government to impose a $250 ceiling depositors can withdraw from each of their bank accounts every week. Since the measures were enforced Dec. 3, Argentines have opened accounts in more than one bank, permitting them to withdraw more than $250 a week. 

Under the new measure, Argentines will be forced to close any accounts opened after Dec. 3 if the total number of their accounts exceeds two 

Arrest made in Sept. 10 death

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Investigators arrested a man in Colorado de Abangares Monday as a suspect in an early morning fatal knifing in Barranca Sept. 10. The dead man is Guillermo Córdoba Mejia. 

The arrested man is Eduardo Rolando Conseca Córtez. Investigators said they believe the two men got into a dispute which led to the fatal wounds. The body was found in a lot. 


Tibás man
near his 

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A man carrying money that he had collected in business transactions was gunned down at his home by robbers in Tibás about 6:20 p.m. Monday, investigators said. 

They identified the dead man by the last name of Solano, and said that he was 62 years old. He died in Hospital México that night from two bullet wounds in the side.

Police said two men intercepted the victim as he arrived at his home, shot him and took 1 million colons ($2,940) that the man had collected in payment for loans.

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