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(506) 223-1327        Published Monday, Dec. 19, 2005, in Vol. 5, No. 250          E-mail us    
Jo Stuart
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La Carpio explodes into anti-police rioting
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An armed mob attacked the Fuerza Pública station in La Carpio early Sunday morning with rocks, bullets and home-made bombs.  The attack left at least one man dead and an officer wounded, police said.

The section in the western part of the city is a poor neighborhood populated mostly by Nicaraguan immigrants.

The incident started when officers arrested a man during an investigation of a domestic violence complaint about midnight, according to an account from the security ministry. 

A Nicaraguan identified by the last name Rodríguez called police to complain that her boyfriend was beating her, the account said.  Officer Randall Carrillo López and others responded, but the man had already left the woman's home, they said.  During a search for the man, they found two youths with rocks in their hands.  The youths began acting aggressively with the rocks, so the officers ordered the youths to drop them, the ministry said.  Instead, one of the youths, a Nicaraguan identified by the last names López Lira, threw the rock at Carrillo and wounded him in the cheek, according to the official account.   

Police arrested López and brought him back to the station.  Soon after, the ministry account said, some 100 persons armed with rocks, molotov cocktails and firearms arrived, officers said.  The mob began attacking the building, and the officers were forced to flee along with López in the patrol car, the ministry account said. 

Because officers abandoned the police station, the mob was able to break into the building where they robbed everything in the filing cabinet as well as other personal possessions, the ministry said.  The mob then destroyed all the communication equipment, desks and other objects and set the building on fire, said the account from the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Securidad Pública.

Some personal vehicles of the police also were damaged, the ministry said.

The fleeing officers called in back-up from the police delegations of Mata Redonda, Hatillo, Tíbas and the Dirección Regional de San José, officers said.  The extra officers were able to return the mob's fire and eventually regain control of the situation, the mininstry said.  

As a result of the confrontation, one person, 29-year-old Norman Román Gutiérrez, a Nicaraguan, took a bullet in the chest during the fight and was taken to nearby Hospital
México.  He died soon after, the mininstry said.

Four other members of the group were also shot, the mininstry said:  17-year-old Geovanni Rocha Hernández was shot in the upper thigh. 19-year-old Francisco Román Lira was shot in the right shoulder. 15-year-old Francisco Dixon Hernández was also shot in the shoulder, and Róger Traña Valladares was shot in the head.  All four were Nicaraguans, police said.   

Officers were able to arrest four more suspects besides López Lira, they said.  They arrested another Nicaraguan identified by the last names Parrales Vargas.  The other three were identified by the last names Castillo Obando and Madrigal Umaña.  A 16-year-old youth was also arrested, police said.  All three claimed to be Costa Rican but Castillo Obando was the only one with documents, police said.  

Riots and near riots are not unknown in La Carpio. The smoldering resentment of the poor and marginalized flared up into a full-scale riot in May, 2004. Hundreds, including police, women and babies, were injured from tear gas, bullets and thrown objects.The confrontation was televised extensively.

The previous January some 300 police set up checkpoints around La Carpio and detained 246 persons in an operation that started about 6 a.m. The goal was to check identities.
The La Carpio sweep produced 19 arrests on criminal warrants and the confiscation of nearly two dozen false cédulas or identity cards, police said. About 170 of those detained have problems with their immigration status, said officials. Some 53 carried expired documents, they said at the time.

Since then, little has changed in the area, which also has been used as a route for municipal garbage trucks enroute to a landfill.

Nicaraguans have been upset since Nov. 10 when a rottweiler guard dog killed one of their countrymen near Cartago. The situation, which involved an illegal Nicaraguan immigrant who was a burglar, has evolved into an international incident.

Many Nicaraguans believe that police did little to get the man away from the dog, who chewed on his victim for at least 90 minutes.

What followed was a wave of rottweiler-Nicaraguan jokes by Costa Ricans.

Dec. 4 a Nicaraguan died in a bar confrontation with Costa Ricans where the subject was the Cartago death.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Dec. 19, 2005, Vol. 5, No. 250

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The ship didn't come in
for many lottery fans

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Newspaper staffers reserved this space today to gush happily over their wonderful luck in winning 350,000,000 colons. The story was supposed to describe the tasteful yacht staffers would purchase with the

winnings and their anticipated generosity to various social organizations, not to mention the big party and long vacation.

Alas, it was not to be. Along with most Costa Ricans, staffers here hung on every number pulled by the Junta de Protección Social de San José in the big Christmas lottery
Sunday night. But like most viewers, the dreams were not to be reality.

The big prize amounts to about $705,000 U.S. And the winning series was 691 with the number 03. Tickets here were not even close, but a spokesman for the junta reported that the five existing tickets with the correct series and number were sold in Cartago, San José, the southern suburb of Hatillo, Alajuela and Chacarita de Puntarenas.

Close also was good. Persons with the same numbers but a different series as the winner, get 240,000 colons ($484). The same three-digit series but with a different number pays 160,000 colons ($323). Prizes of 1 million colons ($2,016) also went to holders of tickets with the same series as the winner but with a number immediately before or after the winning one.

In all, the junta gave away more than 100 cash prizes, ranging from 400,000 colons ($806) to the grand prize.

The numbers were pulled in the Plaza de la Cultura with three lottery-type baskets. One, the smallest, contained  balls representing the prize. The largest contained balls representing the three-digit series. And one contained 100 balls representing the number.

So the series, number and the amount of the prize were all random.

The top prize was pulled less than half way through the 30-minute presentation. And there was a flurry of confetti and even fireworks. Spanish-language newspapers and television will begin identifying the winners from all over the country today. Many are likely to be poor, lured into the lottery with the expectation of quick riches. Some may just hold one of 40 pieces of the lottery ticket. A whole ticket cost 20,000 colons, about$40. A single piece or fracción as they are called cost just 500 colons, a bit more than $1.

Although the lottery is held each week, the Christmas or Gordo awards seven times the normal amount for the first prize.

Nature Air tourist flight
crashes near Tamarindo

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A small Nature Air plane carrying eight persons crashed in a mangrove swamp outside the popular beach town of Tamarindo Friday but no one was killed, said Warren Chavarria of the Cruz Roja de Santa Cruz. 

The passengers were María del Rosario Vargas, the pilot; Gustavo Carrera, the co-pilot and also the son of Costa Rica's ambassador to Nicaragua; Peter Noble; Luis Gerardo Gámez; Audy Runy Smith; José Lluguno; Jacques Bititoune, and Floruy Davtrien, Chavarria said.  The plane had taken off from Tobias Bolaños, the airport in Pavas, and was enroute to Tamarindo when it crashed while coming in for a landing, Chavarria said.  The plane was a Havilland Twin Otter.  Noble and Smith were believed to be U.S. citizens and tourists.

According to Chavarria, officials had not yet concluded what caused the crash, but they were suspecting a strong gust of wind might have caused Ms. Vargas to lose control of the small plane as it slowed and approached the runway.  Sunday, only Noble and Vargas, the pilot, remained in the hospital, he said.   

Vehicle inspection still
necessary to pay tax

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Although the Dec. 31 due date for the marchamo, or vehicle tax, is looming, officials with the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes have decided not to suspend the requirement that vehicles pass the safety inspection for their owners to pay the tax. 

Many car owners who have procrastinated on renewing their revisón técnica will have to visit the nearest RITEVE SyC, inspection station. 

Many cars cannot pass the rigorous test without expensive mechanical repairs, so their owners will have to pay additional fees after the deadline.  For many people, the revisión técnica is a slap in the face because they feel that the failure of their cars to pass the test is a direct result of government negligence of the roads.  The damage their cars sustain after a year of slamming into potholes could be avoided if the roads were maintained, many people say.   

In his reply to the Movimiento Cívico Nacional, the organization that solicited the waver, public works minister Randall Quirós Bustamante said that out of respect for current legislation, as well as regard for public safety on the nation's highways, he has decided not to suspend the revisión técnica prerequisite for paying the vehicle tax.

A similar waver was granted in 2004 but in his reply, Quirós differentiated that decision from the current one based on a question that lingered in the courts then as to the legality of safety inspection.  In addition, Quirós stated that since the marchamo money also goes to the Ministerio de Hacienda and the Instituto Nacional de Seguros, it wasn't his place as head of the public works ministry to speak for those agencies.     

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Dec. 19, 2005, Vol. 5, No. 250

What they really mean is that it's a gift from God
Traérselo el Niño

“The Baby (Jesus) brings it.” As I explained last week, traditionally in Costa Rica Christmas presents are considered to be gifts from the Baby Jesus that are left under children’s beds on Christmas Eve. Only more recently, as the Costa Rican holiday has taken on the trappings of Christmas as celebrated in the U.S., has Santa Clause and the Reindeer Express delivery system become the accepted norm.

But, getting back to our dicho, traérselo el Niño can be used in a number of different situations. For example, when someone has a favorite thing, let’s say a favorite shirt or tie that he seems to wear all the time, we might remark Hey, se la trajo el niño.  Or if your neighbor admires your new backyard swimming pool so much that he comes over for a dip even when you’re not at home, you might ask him ¿Que es esto, mae? ¿Se la trajo el niño?

Or when someone decides that a certain thing belongs only to him, like the most comfortable chair in the living room, one might ask of that person ¿Hey, se lo trajo el Niño? And remember the h is mute in Spanish so do not pronounce it.

We might even bend this dicho to fit a political situation, for example, when all the streets in the town are full of potholes, but the one that gets
way we say it

By Daniel Soto

repaired is the one that runs in front of the alcalde’s (mayor’s) house, we could say, with a very sarcastic tone, Se lo trajo el Niño.

Something we get for free we can also say is se lo trajo el Niño.

So you can see how a seemingly benign little dicho can be used to interpret several situations through wit, imagination, sarcasm and even mild ridicule.

But the real gift of el Niño that we celebrate at this time of year has to do more with love and sharing than with whose streets get paved first in our town.

Pavas motorist gunned down in drive-by shooting
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A 35-year-old man is dead and his 7-year-old daughter has a bullet wound in her leg after a drive-by shooting in Pavas late Saturday night.

Fuerza Pública officers found Minor Torres Quesada dead from 11 bullet wounds throughout his body.  Police said he was attacked when two men on a motorcycle pulled alongside Torres' Hyundai Accent near the Plaza de Deportes in the Pavas centro and opened fire.  The confrontation left Torres' 7-year-old
daughter, María Fernanda Torres Murillo, who was riding in the front passenger seat, with a bullet wound to her upper right leg, officers said.  The shooting also left Francisco Bustamante Rojas with a bullet wound to the mouth, officers said.  He was a passer-by.

Family members took Torres to Hospital San Juan de Díos and the daughter to the nearby Hospital Nacional de Niño. 

Officers questioned and detained for a time eight family members as witnesses.

Coke candidate appears to be the victor in Bolivia
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
and wire service reports

Bolivia's right wing presidential candidate Jorge Quiroga has conceded defeat to leftist Evo Morales following Sunday's elections.

The election result may undermine the United States anti-drug operations and other policy efforts in South and Central America.

The concession clears the way for Morales to become the country's first indigenous president. But if he failed to win at least 50 percent of the ballot, Bolivia's congress will have the task of choosing a president from the top two finishers.

Morales, a coca farmer, has said he would reverse efforts to eradicate coca fields and increase government control of the country's natural gas resources.
Bolivians also elected a new vice president and Congress Sunday. The vote was monitored by international observers and 50,000 security officers.

Although the United Sates has said that Bolivia is expected to follow its policy of aiding in the fight against illegal drugs, the country still produces large quantities of cocaine.

Morales is friendly with Hugo Chávez, the president of Venezuela, and the United states has been critical of the way Chávez has maintained a relationship with the leftist rebels in adjacent Colombia. The rebels finance their war with drugs.

Chávez is an admirer of Cuba's Fidel Castro, and adopts a similar military style in his presidency. Morales, also left of center, is likely to side with Chávez and his efforts to set up an alternative model of international trade in opposition to the U.S. free trade proposals.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Dec. 19, 2005, Vol. 5, No. 250

Last-minute deal saves world trade talks from disaster
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Amid protests by anti-globalization activists and after heated negotiations, ministers of the World Trade Organization meeting in Hong Kong have produced a result that few had expected: an agreement to advance global free trade and help poor nations develop their economies.

Ministers worked through the night Saturday before breaking a deadlock that had pitted developing nations against the rich countries and the rich countries against each other.

With time running out, the negotiations became frantic and produced an interim agreement to keep moving toward trade liberalization.  In the accord, richer nations pledge to make several concessions to the world's least developed countries, especially in agriculture and market access.

In a speech closing the six days of talks, Pascal Lamy, World Trade Organization director-general, praised members for taking what he said is an important step toward ensuring that the world's poor benefit from free trade.

"We are tipping the balance in the WTO soundly and steadily in favor of developing countries," said Lamy.

While the interim deal is described as modest by many delegates and trade experts, it saved the World Trade Organization's Hong Kong ministerial conference from total collapse.  There had been fears that this meeting, like the ministerial in Cancun, Mexico, two years ago, and the Seattle, Washington, meeting in 1999, would end without an agreement.  Some analysts had warned that such a collapse in Hong Kong could fatally weaken the World Trade Organization's role as the rule-making body for global trade.

While delegates were grateful to have achieved a deal, this one falls far short of the original goal for the Hong Kong meeting.  Originally, this conference was to have produced the detailed formulas for cutting tariffs and trade barriers needed to complete what is called the World Trade Organization's 4-year-old Doha Development Agenda.
The talks had been deadlocked largely over the European Union's refusal to commit to a date for ending farm export subsidies, a key demand of developing nations.  After pressure from the United States and developing countries including Brazil, Brussels backed down, saying it did so in the interest of moving the process along.

The United States made a number of concessions, including doubling its trade development assistance for poor countries to $2.7 billion a year.  U.S. officials also said they would give free-market access to cotton from Africa.

Tanzania's communications and transport minister, Mark Mwandosya, said he hopes the agreement will give the nations of Africa a new beginning.

"We have depended on aid for almost half a century and aid has not let us rid ourselves of poverty," he said.  "Let us try trade, and the only indication of how well the rounds will have succeeded will be whether we use trade to eradicate poverty." 

Developing nations agreed to continue working to open their markets to manufactured goods and services from wealthier countries.  But the accord gave few details on how that will be done.

Even Director-General Lamy acknowledges that much more work needs to be done to complete the Doha agenda.  The deal sets a target of next April 30th for the World Trade Organization's 149 members to establish more precise formulas for moving the development agenda along.

Not everyone was pleased with the results of the talks.  Officials from many aid agencies said the interim deal did too little to help poor countries.

And more than 7,000 activists outside the meeting hall protested that the organization's trade rules hurt workers and farmers.  The activists began the week declaring they wanted to derail the talks and prevent the delegates from reaching any agreement.  Despite days of protests, including a brief riot near the conference center on Saturday, the activists did little to interfere with the talks.

Marines and embassy workers play Santa

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

U.S. Marines have a long tradition of helping youngsters celebrate Christmas.

So it was no surprise that members of the Marine security guard at the U.S. Embassy joined with other members of the embassy community to hold a party for youngsters at the Hospicio de Huerfanos San José in Guadalupe.

An embassy spokesperson said that the youngsters ranged in age from a month to 12 years. Huerfano means orphan in Spanish, and this home even has one parentless family of six, said the embassy spokesperson.

Among those taking part was Patty Langdale (right), the wife of the new U.S. ambassador.

Each child received two gifts appropriate for the age, the embassy spokesperson said.

U.S. Embassy photo
Patty Langdale and new friend

California man gets 240 months for massive fake-factoring scheme
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

A California man who ran a gigantic Ponzi scheme and continued to offer bogus investments in accounts receivable factoring after being ordered to stop by a federal judge was sentenced Friday to 240 months in federal prison.

The man, Larry Toshio Osaki, 57, of Upland, was sentenced at the end of a three-and-a-half-day hearing by U. S. District Judge Stephen V. Wilson, who said the defendant "single-handedly caused huge loss and havoc."

In addition to the prison term, Judge Wilson ordered Osaki to pay more than $145 million in restitution to victims, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Los Angeles.

Osaki pleaded guilty March 22 to conspiracy to commit securities fraud, two counts of securities fraud, obstruction of justice and one count of money laundering. Osaki's scheme cumulatively collected a quarter billion dollars from nearly 7,000 investors and caused $145 million in losses, prosecutors' estimated. That scheme started at his Pasadena company, J.T. Wallenbrock & Associates, and was continued with a second firm based in Edmonton, Canada, they said.

From at least 1997 until his arrest in October 2003, Osaki offered investments in accounts receivable financing, which is sometimes called factoring. Employees at Wallenbrock, and later at the Canadian-based Village Capital Trust, told investors that their money would be used to purchase the accounts receivable of latex glove manufacturing companies based in Asia and that investments would yield returns of 20 percent every 90 days.
However, neither Wallenbrock nor Village Capital Trust purchased any accounts receivable, nor did they operate a factoring business. Instead, Osaki used investors' money to improperly pay the salaries for him and his associates and run his own venture capital firm, prosecutors said.

"This started and ended as a fraud," Judge Wilson said during the sentencing hearing. Today, Judge Wilson concluded that the "evidence was overwhelming that it was a massive fraud and [Osaki] knew it...this was a wholesale fraud from the beginning.... It was brazen and callous, [and] he knowingly and callously ruined thousands of lives."

In 2002, the U. S. Securities and Exchange Commission filed a civil lawsuit alleging that Wallenbrock was part of an illegal securities fraud. The SEC obtained an  injunction that barred Osaki and others from running the companies. A federal judge in Los Angeles also appointed a receiver to oversee Wallenbrock.

However, contrary to the injunction issued by the federal court, Osaki, with the help of co-conspirators, relocated operations to Canada, Belize and elsewhere. With the help of his co-conspirators, Osaki formed a new company off-shore, Village Capital Trust, that offered the same bogus accounts receivable investments as Wallenbrock, and it continued to operate as a Ponzi scheme, said prosecutors.

Osaki has been in custody since October 2003, when he was arrested by federal authorities at his home in Upland. This case is the result of an ongoing investigation by IRS-Criminal Investigation Division and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The United States Securities and Exchange Commission provided substantial assistance during the investigation, prosecutors said.

Jo Stuart
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