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These stories were published Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2002, in Vol. 2, No. 249
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Investor on ropes now needs blood donations
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

What’s worse than dropping your life savings with Luis Enrique Villalobos Camacho and Savings Unlimited?

Getting told soon after that you need a triple heart bypass.

That’s the situation that a U.S. citizen, Dennis Gilbride, finds himself. He is broke. He’s 58. And he has a date with a surgeon Saturday.

Fortunately for Gilbride and his wife Ellyn, an agreeable physician will make the operation possible.

There’s just one thing. Gilbride has a rare blood type, O negative, and he needs North Americans and Ticos alike to help him by giving blood at Clinica Biblica. 

Said Mrs. Gilbride: ". . . the doctor said that if people will donate blood early this week, he can probably trade whatever blood is donated for the type that my husband needs.  A lot of blood is needed for this surgery."

Gilbride, a former truck driver from the Cleveland, Ohio, area said at least seven to eight pints are needed, including some of the O negative.

The story leading to the operation is one of a battle against adversity. The Gilbrides put every cent they had in the ill-fated Villalobos and Savings Unlimited high-interest investment firms. Villalobos suspended operations Oct. 14, and Louis Milanes of Savings Unlimited ducked out of the country the weekend of Nov. 23 leaving thousands of investors in the lurch.

The Gilbrides did have insurance and figured they would be covered when Dennis began complaining of being tired. A stress test suggested that some kind of heart procedure was needed. But only after Dennis spent time at several hospitals did physicians agree that the expensive triple bypass was needed.

An insurance policy will pay the bulk of the cost, and their physician, Elliott Garita, agreed

to take some of his fee on time, said Mrs. Gilbride. 

The couple now is staying with friends in Bello Horizonte and figuring how to put their life back together after Dennis’ operation. They sold what they had here to try to get enough money to get back to the States to get jobs and start over, she said. They have been here about a year.

Mrs. Gilbride contacted A.M. Costa Rica Monday to seek help in getting expats here to visit the Clinica Biblica blood bank between 7 a.m. and 3 p.m. any day this week.

"Please help to save my husband’s life," she said. Tell the blood bank staff when you donate that you are donating blood for Dennis Gilbride who is Dr. Elliott Garita’s patient, she said.

Clinica Biblica, a fully equipped hospital, is on Avenida 14 in the center of San José.

The Gilbrides are not alone in being victims of the investment collapses who also have medical problems. But they are among the few that present a clear way for others to help them.


 
Boy’s feet protrude from a used appliance box on Avenida 2 just a few feet from Calle 11 about 3 p.m. in the afternoon. A typical sight in the city. A luckier boy and mother detour slightly to avoid the box.
A.M. Costa Rica photo
New campaign will try to raise awareness to street kids
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Interamerican Development Bank is supporting an effort by a government and a private agency here to raise public awareness of street children.

"To touch the conscience of the public and change the image of the children in the street is the first step to fight against this phenomenon," said Bruce Harris of Casa Alianza, the private agency.

Also joining the campaign is the Patronato Nacional de la Infancia, the government agency that is supposed to work for children.

The campaign that will last until February is similar to others set up in other Latin American countries, according to a Casa Alianza press release.

Harris said that although the Patronato is charged with caring for children, the responsibility belongs to all society. The title of

the campaign is "Don’t call me a street child," said the release.

The campaign will be carried out via the news media, community chats and other means of contact. The Casa Alianza release also referred to some 147,000 underage children who work in Costa Rica as well as 280,000 minors who do not go to school. However, the release did not say how these groups would be touched by the campaign.

Harris’ group estimated that there are about 1,500 street children in San José, but the youngsters move around a lot from one end of the country to another, making obtaining statistics difficult. Other youngsters appear to be street children but have homes to which they can go.

The bulk of the youngsters on the street are addicted to some form of drug, usually crack cocaine, and travel in extended groups for association and protection. They live by begging and stealing.

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Deputies approve emergency tax plan in final vote
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Asamblea Nacional approved the emergency tax plan Monday night and sent it to the president.

The vote came even as casino workers were demonstrating against the package that will level new taxes on gaming tables and slot machines.

Proponents of the plan say that it will raise 62 billion colons  ($160 million) from Jan. 1 until Dec. 31, 2003. The higher income will reduce the public dept that now stands at about 331 billion colons (about $880 million).

The Ministerio de Hacienda, the entity in charge of tax and budget, plans to announce cuts in government spending at the council of government meeting this morning.

At the session Monday, Movimiento Libertario deputies claimed that at least 25,000 Costa Rican workers would have their jobs placed in jeopardy by the tax plan. Casino demonstrators outside claimed they were 3,000 strong and all worried about their jobs.

The fiscal plan levies a tax on gaming tables proportional to the number of hours in a day that they are used. The tax runs from 120,000 colons (10 hours) to 320,000 colons (24 hours) per month per table. ($319 to $851) Each slot machine will generate a monthly tax of 100,000 colons (some $266). A last-minute motion by the Partido Acción Ciudadana raised that tax from 25,000 colons.

Libertario deputies claimed that the recent budget approved by the assembly contained a 32 percent increase and 4,000 new government jobs.

The approved tax plan also provides a licensing system for electronic sportbooks that ranges from 10 million colons to 24 million, depending on the number of employees. That’s from $26,500 to $64,000 a year. The government had planned a monthly tax on each computer work station.

The new plan also doubles cigarette taxes and adds an additional five colon (1.3 cent) tax on each bottle of alcohol. Fees to file documents at the Registro Nacional also are doubled.

A new section requires corporations to pay a one-tenth of one percent tax on their equity if their value is higher than 35 million colons ($93,000). That’s the difference between liabilities and assets. This replaces a $200 per corporation tax that had been proposed.

Owners of "luxury cars,’ which the government defines as being worth 7 million or more ($18,600) get slapped with a special tax that must be paid before the car is reregistered next year.

Coincidentally, Monday was the day that annual tax returns were due. The emergency tax plan also contains a section permitting a penalty amnesty for those who pay taxes they owed from before Sept. 31. But anyone who failed to file their return Monday and pay their taxes would not seem to be covered by the amnesty.


 
Fire hits center
of nearby Cartago 

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Fire raged through some 15 buinesses in Cartago Monday morning and destroyed the bulk of the connected buildings.

Fuerza Pública officers received word that witnesses had see two men drive up in a car and throw bottles of flammable fluid at one store. Investigators said that the blaze originated in more than one place.

Included in the one-story stores was a pet shop where most of the animals died. But two small dogs and a rabbit were among the survivors.

About 50 persons are believed to be without work due to the blaze. 

American beginning
direct N.Y. flights

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

American Airlines will be making direct flights to New York. Costa Rican officials held an inauguration ceremony Monday.

Vice President Lineth Saborío noted that America provides jobs for 80 families here and has been flying to Costa Rica for 13 years.

Court president spoke
just a bit too soon

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Pity the poor constitutional court.

The Sala IV held a press conference a week ago where Luis Fernando Solano Carrera, president of the court,  happily announced that the court had received about 2,000 fewer cases than the previous year.

But a few hours later the court received a massive filing representing 2,640 cases brought against the Dirección Nacional de Pensiones by unhappy Costa Ricans who want to retire.

Officials now say this single filing alone will represent two months work by the court.

Pure gold links
organic molecules

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Scientists say they have learned how to use tiny particles of high-purity metals as a bridge to connect computer chips with organic molecules.

A press release says a team of scientists at Purdue University has found a way to connect the interior of a computer with the biological world.

"It is possible that this discovery will enable chips similar to those found in computers to detect biohazards such as bacteria, nerve gas or other chemical agents," said Jillian Buriak, associate professor of chemistry at Purdue's School of Science.

According to the release, metals such as gold and platinum, which are excellent conductors of electricity, are commonly found in nature as part of low-purity compounds like metal salts. The researchers discovered that when these salts are dissolved in liquid and a semiconductor is dipped into the solution, a layer of gold nanoparticles eventually forms on the semiconductor, with the same purity as gold bullion. This discovery alone is good news to chip makers since traditional manufacturing techniques require beginning with expensive, very high-purity gold.

The team made its second breakthrough when it was found that the gold nanoparticles eventually formed a bumpy coating on the semiconductor base, providing nooks and crannies in which to secure organic molecules that react in the presence of other chemicals.

The upshot of this double-layering is that the organic molecules could be chosen for their ability to react to the presence of nerve gas or biological contaminants. If a dangerous chemical reacted with an organic molecule on the chip, the resulting electrical change would be conveyed by the metal nanoparticles, signaling that a biohazard was present.

Military propagandists
considered by Pentagon

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. officials are debating using the military to generate propaganda campaigns in foreign, even allied, countries.

Pentagon officials say the operations could include paying journalists to write stories favorable to U.S. policies or financing schools to counter radical Islam taught in some Muslim religious schools. 

The New York Times was the first to report on the debate within military circles in its Monday edition.  Pentagon sources say that officials are split over the proposal. Critics say the Defense Department would risk its credibility if it went ahead with the plan. 

However, senior Pentagon officials say Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is deeply frustrated over U.S. efforts to promote its message overseas as it pursues the war on terror. The sources say Rumsfeld has not made a decision on the proposal but has it under consideration. 

In February, the Pentagon shut down a short-lived "strategic information office" after an uproar over suggestions it might give out false information in a bid to sway foreign public opinion.

Fomer N.J. governor
gets Sept. 11 post

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Bush has named a former New Jersey governor, Thomas Kean, as chairman of a special commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States. He replaces Henry Kissinger, who resigned last week. 

Kean was on the original list of names mentioned to President Bush as possible choices to head the commission.  When former Secretary of State Kissinger unexpectedly left the post, the president quickly turned to Kean. 

White House Spokesman Ari Fleischer made the official announcement. "Tom Kean is a leader respected for integrity, fairness and good judgment," he said. Kean served as governor of New Jersey from 1982 to 1990, and is currently president of the state's Drew University. 

Unlike Henry Kissinger, he has no business dealings overseas that could conceivably present a conflict of interest problem. The two do share, however, a geographic link to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Kissinger is a long-time resident of New York City, and Kean comes from an adjoining state that was home to many people killed in the attack on the World Trade Center. 

Opposition now calls
for Venezuela unity

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

CARACAS, Venezela — Opposition leaders are calling for national unity and an end to violence after security forces fired tear gas at anti-government protesters who blocked major thoroughfares in the capital. 

Tensions that have been brewing for weeks reached a boiling point Monday as rock and bottle-hurling demonstrators squared off with police in several locations around the capital. Clouds of tear gas left people on their hands and knees, coughing and choking. Among those who could speak, many pleaded for peace.

The protesters, who continue to demand the resignation of President Hugo Chavez, took to the streets one day after the embattled leader announced that he has no intention of relinquishing power. 

Opposition leaders immediately condemned police actions. Some reiterated their demand for President Chavez's ouster while others called on their countrymen to stop fighting each other. Eduardo Fernandez of the opposition Social Christian party said the time has come for Chavez to listen to the people in a spirit of national unity.

"Mr. Chavez, you have a historical and moral obligation to embrace dialogue," he said. "No more violence; no more deaths; no more bloodshed. He added that a consultation of the people's democratic will is urgently needed."

The opposition, which accuses President Chavez of ineptitude and a long list of abuses, is seeking a referendum on the leader's continued rule, or Chavez's outright resignation.

But a deputy in Venezuela's legislature, Chavez loyalist Tarek William Saab, says the president is not going anywhere, and that it is the opposition that is resorting to violence.

Saab says President Chavez will not resign. He says no democracy can sustain itself in the face of a group of people who use unconstitutional means and violence to try to overthrow a government.

Saab condemned a 15-day opposition-led national strike that has crippled Venezuela's oil production and brought many forms of commerce to a standstill.

For weeks, Organization of American States Secretary General César Gaviria has attempted to broker an accord between the two polarized camps, but so far has little to show for his efforts.

Cricket team splits matches

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Costa Rica played two cricket matches against Nicaragua at the old BATCA ground in Managua last weekend. The series was split, with Nicaragua winning the first match but Costa Rica won the second. Tema members were Daniel Wilmot, Peter Liddell, Oriel Willock, Tim Baker, Andrew Standley, Richard Illingworth, Jonathan Lambert, Mike Power, Morgan Power, Lofty, Sheldon Haseltine and Chris Lear.

Rustling roundup

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Police officers in Ciudad Colón stopped a vehicle containing three men late Friday and found that the vehicle also contained two cows that had been stolen from a local rancher.

Lots of undocumented

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Police early Monday reported that they had stopped five vehicles containing a total of 189 undocumented Panamanians near the country’s southern border.
 
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More Villalobos letters
Reader says suit
should target CR

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Robert McDonald´s letter hit the nail on the head, truly. The dysfunctional Costa Rican government is responsible for this calamity which has affected not only thousands of investors, but the national economy and the people of Costa Rica.

The SUGEF which is the regulatory agency for financial organizations under the Central Bank law (Ley Organica del Banco Central de Costa Rica which is available in paper back at the Universal Department Store for 1,100 colones) clearly says that the Central Bank and its associate agency, the SUGEF, had both the authority and responsibility to regulate, investigate, and call for action. And, in this recent fiasco they completely failed, so they need to be called to face their accusers.

The Central Bank and the SUGEF need to be sued for 1 billion dollars, and I think the momentum to do this is gaining ground. The government can at any time announce that they are willing to negotiate a settlement even if they have to wait to see what assets are available from Enrique Villalobos and Savings Unlimited.

One may wonder where they will get the money? Simple, sell more Costa Rican bonds in the international market. They are presently planning to sell around 300 million, so why not another 500 million in the near future to settle their gross negligence. The Costa Rican people will pay for this expense like they did in the Banco Anglo fiasco, and just maybe they will wake up from this deep sleep of ¨pura vida¨ and pay more attention to their national honor.

A couple weeks ago former President and Deputy to the National Constitutional Convention of 1949 Luis Monge made a patriotic call for a new Constitutional Convention as he said that the very social, economic, and cultural fabric of Costa Rica was unraveling. I absolutely believe he is correct. Whether Ticos will heed this call or just stay in dreamland is a big question!

Rick Ellis
Pacheco track record
not considered good

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Dear Investors, There is no reason to be irritated by President Pacheco´s remarks. You must simply consider the source. This comes from a man who claims integrity and yet the truth is, like most politicians, he is far from honest. 

He issued a decree in July stating that plea bargains would not be tolerated. Shortly after he signed an agreement absolving two men found guilty of embezzlement that led to the collapse of Banco Anglo. To make matters worse he states that Planning Minister Danilo Chaverri is guilty of deceiving him into signing this acquittal. No Code of Honor tolerates this kind of treason. Chaverri has an impressive political track record that anyone could admire. Chaverri admits profound hurt over the untrue insinuations, then resigns. 

Pacheco stated he did not know what he was signing. That alone is an admission of gross negligence for he either did not read that which signed — or worse — he was incapable of understanding it. 

Pacheco´s response shows he was angered by the negative international publicity. His cage has been rattled and he responded with an insult. Could you expect anything else? 

I will admit, though that a culture that has such pride in diplomacy and education is poorly reflected by this statement. The trend of his administration is to never admit error. It is easier to blame someone else. 

Could it be that he is aware that the entire Villalobos situation has been handled very poorly and is resulting in international embarrassment? Can you imagine just how irate he really was? 

Scott Thomas 
Zona Sur
Pacheco should quit
his president’s job

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Since Abel Pacheco is now engaging in name calling; we investors have the right to jump in and sling some mud!

This able head doctor should resign and go back to shrinking personal clients heads as he in no way is qualified to be a president of anything other than a mental health clinic. 

In the meantime, until he is ousted from his present job, which needs to happen soon, he needs a lot of therapy by economist and political management consultants. Better yet, the courts should issue a gag order on this idiot.

It is public knowledge that his own party´s leadership did not want him to run for the presidency, and what kind of president doesn´t even talk to his vice-president. Who got fooled is the people of Costa Rica, or rather should we say that the people of Costa Rica who voted for the dumb-dumb guy are the real fools since he is in process of wrecking the Costa Rica economy.

What a first class jerk this guy is. His fired Minister of Justice Villablos called him a puppet and clown, and his calling us fools is indeed right along the lines of what a clown does. Why doesn´t the Assembly create a post of court jester and let this idiot dress up like the Joker and dance around at the Plaza Cultura.

Ed Masten 
Vancouver, B.C. Canada


 

Pacheco quote found
in Catholic Bible text

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Well, as someone once said: "There you go again." Again, I would urge you to do some proper research, stick to reporting facts instead of pretending to be an "analyst," and stop the Tico-bashing that your paper and other gringos in Costa Rica seem to enjoy so much.

Specifically, your headline and treatment of the story about Pacheco calling gringos fools, in your Dec. 16 issue, was a bit inflammatory and did little to shed any real light on the situation. And your lack of research on the Bible quote was appalling, seemingly intended to do nothing but show Pacheco is a fool (and, I suppose, by implication, that gringo leaders are brilliant). 

Of course you can claim, as you did, that you did not find the quote in the version of the Bible you looked in. But try, like I did, using the google.com search engine and type in the words: 'bible quote "the number of fools is infinite."' The very first website listed explains that the quote in question is in the Douay Rheims Version of the bible, in the book of Ecclesistaces. It goes on to explain that some people believe, in fact, that this Douay Rheims version is better than the King James Version, since it predates it. In any event, I hope you will stop doing your readers such disservices by simply picking any opportunity you can to make people from countries other than the U.S. look like fools.

I should mention that I am also an 'investor' with the brothers, who lost money. But I do think that the sentiment behind Pacheco's quote was correct, and I am one of the infinite number of fools to have taken this gamble. (And we all did know it was a gamble, so let's stop pretending we are such innocent victims of the Tico government, RCMP, U.S. authorities, etc.) In any event, I again urge you to stick to facts and do some proper research in your stories, and stop trying to slip in your opinions, unless you clearly label the piece as opinion, not news. 

John Lawson 
Toronto, Canada
EDITOR’S NOTE: The reader is correct that the statement about fools appears in the Douay Rheims Bible, a text sanctioned by the Catholic Church. Since Pacheco is Catholic, we should have checked Douay Rheims instead of the King James Version which does not contain the quote.
 

For a long time
Villalobos was fine

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Mr Hobbs of N.Y: if you had put your money with Vilallobos 10 years ago, and took it out after only 8 years you would have doubled it every 30 months. If your so smart then why didn't you do that. A lot of us did. 

I played the game for 8 years, did exactly that then moved on. Even if I had stayed in I would have been way ahead even after losing the original investment. A lot of the investors did, only the recently invested got burned. 

What did you do with your money, put it in Enron. But then "what ifs" are kind of like the grandmother theorem, "if your grandmother had balls would she be your grandfather." Have a nice day, 

Jay Eldrek
Tenino, Washington

 
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