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(506) 223-1327         Published Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2006, in Vol. 6, No. 251        E-mail us    
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Those who drop their Villalobos case may face claim
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Former Villalobos investors who filed cases against the fugitive financier and his brother and then dropped the complaints may be in for a shock.

Costa Rican law allows the judge in the case to assess damages and attorney fees in favor of the former defendant. These damages can be a percentage of the original amount claimed and can be significant.

U.S. lawyers say that such Costa Rican judgments are totally legal in the United States and can be collected with a court action there. A large number of Villalobos investors are U.S. citizens and still have significant assets there.

John Woodhouse, an expat who has been informally aiding Villalobos plaintiffs to drop their cases, said Monday night that he had been contacted by a Costa Rican lawyer who was working on behalf of a Villalobos plaintiff. He said the lawyer asked about damages if the client's case were dropped. Woodhouse said he did not know and simply directed the individual to discuss the matter with one of the Villalobos lawyers.

A certain faction of Villalobos investors has declined to bring civil and criminal complaints against Luis Enrique Villalobos Camacho and his brother Oswaldo. They believe that, if given a chance, Enrique, who has been an international fugitive since 2002, will return and pay them what he owes them.

Some in this faction also have publicly urged those who filed criminal and civil claims against brother Oswaldo to drop them to clear the way for Enrique's anticipated return.

In fact, the plaintiffs have been under intensive pressure to drop their cases via e-mails, telephone calls and display of their names on Internet sites.
Many have dropped their complaints. These are the persons who may already have judicial judgments of which they are not aware filed against them. The pitch was that those who drop their legal complaints will be among those paid first when Luis Enrique Villalobos returns.

There never was any mention of  the judge assessing attorney fees and damages.

A.M. Costa Rica reporters and others who are not parties to the case cannot see the legal files, so assessment of damages could not be confirmed.

Costa Rican civil law also contains a provision that allows a judge to waive a judgment for damages if the plaintiff had good grounds to file the case in the first place. But to get a waiver of damages, the person dropping the case needs to petition the court.

The Ministerio Público, the nation's prosecuting arm, has filed charges against Oswaldo Villalobos alleging money laundering, fraud and illegal banking.  Luis Enrique Villalobos likely will face similar charges if he is found.

The criminal charges to which the civil actions are attached would seem to be sufficient reason for the judge to waive compensatory damages and attorney fees. So would a conviction on criminal charges. The trial for Oswaldo is scheduled to start in February.

Enrique Villalobos ran a high interest borrowing operation for years from an office in Mall San Pedro. He paid between 2.8 and 3 percent per month in cash. Oswaldo ran an adjacent money exchange house, Ofinter, and branches elsewhere in the metropolitan area. Both were raided July 4, 2002. The brothers closed up shop three months later, saying they could not continue when their bank accounts were frozen.  Officials confiscated only a fraction of the money presumed to be under their control, which could be as much as $1 billion.


Officials to begin process to strip Alterra of contract
By José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
and Noel Dekking
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The financial problems in the refurbishing of the Juan Santamaría airport has taken another turn for the worse.

Costa Rican officials revealed that Alterra Partners Ltd., the private firm that was selected to renovate and operate the airport, could not come up with the outstanding $40 million to complete the project.

The announcement came from representatives of the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transporte and the Consejo Técnico de Aviation Civil.

Alterra has been experiencing long-running financial troubles and has requested an adjustment in its 6-year-old contract to compensate for the extra expenditures.

In the latest development, the firm could not come to an agreement with the International Financial Corp. a division of the World Bank, for a commitment of funds by a deadline last Friday. 
Because of this, the public works ministry
initiated a cancellation process for the current contract between the Costa Rican government and Alterra, said  Karla Gonzáles, the minister of Obras Públicas y Transportes. She explained that until Alterra could come up with some concrete solutions, the government will look to terminate the current contract.  This is a process that could take up to seven months.  In the meantime, Alterra is expected to remain in control of the construction and management of the airport. 

In the event of a complete cancellation of the contract, the government would manage the airport until another concession deal could be finalized.  A concession contract, in this situation, is where a private firm is selected to do a public function and then split the profits with the government.

The airport is a key element in the tourism business of Costa Rica. Just last week Alterra opened up two new waiting rooms that are part of the construction work there. The rooms will be departure lounges for air travelers and will relieve some of the congestion that is typical at the airport now. Overall, work is behind schedule.



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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 251  

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Voting on new magistrate
will enter its ninth round


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Deputies again failed Monday to elect a new magistrate to the Sala III criminal appeals court.

The deputies in the assembly have voted eight times without one candidate getting the required 38 votes or two-thirds vote. The leading candidate is Carlos Chinchilla, a current lower court judge who fell just one vote short of election in the last ballot Monday.

His main opponent has been Francisco Dall'Anesse, the fiscal general, who got 17 in the last round.

So far deputies have voted three times with a number of candidates in the running. Then they voted five times with just Chinchilla and Dall'Anesse as hopefuls.

Wednesday all the announced candidates will be on the ninth ballot. The eventual winner will take the seat now held by Rodrigo Castro Monge, who is retiring. The Sala III of the Corte Supreme de Justicia decides criminal appeals.

The Partido Acción Ciudadana is backing Dall'Anesse while the other major political parties support Chinchilla. Dall'Anesse is the man who engineered the arrest and pretrial detention of two former presidents, Miguel Ángel Rodríguez Echeverría and Rafael Ángel Calderón Fournier. Both men are leaders of the partido Unidad Social Cristiana. Dall'Anesse also has expressed a desire to speak with another former president, José María Figueres Olsen, who has declined to return to Costa Rica from Europe.  Figueres is a leader of the Partido Liberación Nacional, which is the majority party in the congress.

Liberación leaders say that Dall'Anesse has not explained some expenses he paid from public funds during his term as the nation's chief prosecutor.

Dall'Anesse also has been criticized for seeking the court magistrate job while he still has major criminal cases in process.

Ricky Martin to visit
for concert in February


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Evenpro, one of the larger Latin American music producers, annouced that Ricky Martin will be in concert here Feb. 19.  The concert is to be held at Saprissa Stadium in Tibás, a venue that recently hosted the Black Eyed Peas.

Martin was recently in Buenos Aires, Argentina, promoting his latest album, “MTV Unplugged”.  In reminiscence of his acting days, the pop-singer took the opportunity in Buenos Aires to make an appearance in one of the local soap operas. 

His recent album, released in November of this year, has already sold millions of copies around the world.  Martin was also named the 2006 Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year.

Our reader's opinion

U.S. has history of backing
dictators like Pinochet


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

In his letter to the editor, George Chapogas misrepresents the facts about archfascist Pinochet. The U. S. government, through covert operations, acted to destabilize Chile and install Pinochet.

New York Times reporter Stephen Kinzer recounts these in his recent superb book "Overthrow." The United States has a long history of supporting dictators: Duvalier, Trujillo, Suharto, Marcos, Park Chung Hee, Chiang Kai-shek, Saddam Hussein, Somoza, Mobutu, and legions of others.

The current administration supports dictatorships in the former Soviet republics while attempting a coup against the democratically elected Chávez (brilliantly chronicled in the documentary "The Revolution Will Not be Televised") while forcing Aristide, the democratically elected president of Haiti into exile. Today, Venezuela is stable. Haiti is in chaos.

Dick Cheney publicly lauded Kazakhstan's dictator, Nursultan Nazarbayev, while on a visit there this past May: "All Americans are tremendously impressed with the progress that you've made in Kazakhstan in the last 15 years. Kazakhstan has become a good friend and strategic partner of the United States."

Reuters reported in 2003 that "transcripts of White House tapes show Nixon and Kissinger relieved about the toppling of Allende, who killed himself the day of the coup. The transcripts quote Kissinger, then national security adviser, as saying newspapers were 'bleeding because a pro-Communist government has been overthrown.'

"'I mean instead of celebrating — in the Eisenhower period we would be heroes,' Kissinger told Nixon on Sept. 16, 1973, five days after the bloody coup led by Gen. Augusto Pinochet. About 3,000 people were killed or disappeared under Pinochet's 17-year rule.

"'Well we didn't — as you know — our hand doesn't show on this one, though,' Nixon told Kissinger in the Sept. 16 transcript.

"'We didn't do it. I mean we helped them,'' Kissinger told Nixon, adding that '(deleted) created the conditions as great as possible,' in an apparent reference to a person or institution.

"'That is right, and that is the way it is going to be played,' Nixon responded."

Apparently, Mr. Chapogas believes that it is fine that 3,000 Chileans should have been executed for their beliefs. The current Chilean president, hardly a flaming radical by any standards, refused to attend Pinochet's funeral because she was tortured under his regime.

Pinochet looted millions from Chile. Even the most hard-core extreme fascists in Chile have been appalled by this.

And not even the most diehard conservative can be unfazed by the brutal 1976 car bombing which( killed former Chilean ambassador and Allende defense minister) Orlando Letelier and his American assistant Roni Moffit near Dupont Circle in Washington, DC. This terrorist act, linked to the Pinochet regime, remains unpunished.

The historical record on Pinochet is clear for those of us who inhabit the reality-based universe. We invite others to join us to inhabit the realm of established fact, but we do recognize that they may wish to continue to reside on their respective delusionary planets.

Harry S. Pariser
San Francisco, California

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 251  







What she got for the roommate who has everything
By Jay Brodell
editor of A.M. Costa Rica

This is a Christmas story with a Latin American twist. Where else can you find Boston college girls, a shrunken head and Amazonian Indians in the same story?

This was in the days when triple-tailed, four-engine Super

Connies ruled the U.S.-Latin air routes, and Pan Am was king.

In a modern Latin city lived a dainty, blue-eyed, blond girl, the first Latin generation of parents who survived World War II and
Nazi invasions. As she entered the late teens, her family, as many wealth Latins do, sent her to university in far-away Boston. That was a long trip by today's standards with the Super Constellation aircraft cranking along at 350 mph into another world.

At school, the bilingual young woman made friends fast, did well and prepared to return home for Christmas during her first semester. But first there was the matter of Christmas presents, especially the present for her New England roommate.

The roommate came from wealth, and not just any present would do. But the girl had a secret wish. The roommate confided one afternoon that her heart's desire was a real, genuine shrunken head. Not one of those fake heads made out of monkey skins, but the softball size McCoy.
The blond Latin scholar wasn't sure, but with Daddy's business connections she just might be able to find this gift.

Although taken aback when given the request, Daddy 

used his contacts until a gem buyer upriver obtained the gift just in time for the young lady's return to school.  For transport, she wrapped the head in aluminum foil and put a machete in her suitcase as an additional Christmas present.

The major gift did not travel well, and by the time the aircraft
reached the appropriate U.S. international airport, the gift was attracting official attention. The custom's official suspected some kind of illicit drug within the aluminum package.

He was amazed at what this diminutive, blue-eyed, blond teen carried.

She could not understand why they confiscated the shrunken head and the machete.

These were the days when travelers did not have to walk barefoot through air terminals, so the situation resolved itself informally. The U.S. government probably still has the shrunken head. And the roommate got a book for Christmas, short stories by O. Henry.



Here's brief vocabulary for those who would take advantage
Montado en la carreta
 
An interesting aspect of this dicho is that it does not exactly mean to get onto the wagon. Rather it’s meaning is a little ambiguous and implies just the opposite, that is, to get off the wagon.
 
In standard Spanish, montar is a very versatile and useful verb. It means, “to mount” as in getting on a horse or a bull, or “to get aboard” as in getting on the train or into a car. It also means “to ride” and “to climb up,” as well as “to erect,” and “to assemble.” The word also has sexual connotations, which, gentle readers, for now we shall leave to your creative imaginations.
 
Today’s dicho is often used to refer to someone who never likes to help out with anything. They are the ones, for example, who enjoy going out to dinner with friends, but conveniently disappear into the lavatory when the bill shows up. These folks love to go along for a nice ride, but when the time comes to pay the driver they hop off the wagon. We call them montados/as.
 
You might say ¡Que montado/a! Of one who has taken shameless advantage of your kindness or generosity, especially if this person is someone you know only slightly or perhaps not at all. You can also protest such behavior by exclaiming: ¡Ay, no se monte! It is, after all, important to let such types know that you’re onto their tricks.
 
You could also say, Ni piense en montarse, which is the same as saying in English, “don¹t even think of taking advantage!” Even the abbreviated ¡Ni lo piense! Should suffice to get your meaning across in most cases.
 
But occasionally you will find yourself in the presence of a really big montado who pretends he doesn’t get it or perhaps his hearing is not working so well. So for those occasions when one needs to be a bit more direct, say something like: Ni se imagine que se va a montar, “Don’t even imagine that you¹re getting a free ride.”
 
Montarse en la carreta also has the very same meaning as the English expression that so-and-so has “fallen off the wagon,” which is to say that they have gone out and got totally drunk. It seems that some people each year spend the week between Christmas and New Years Day in such a state.

The
way we say it

By Daniel Soto


Zapote had become a showcase for such behavior. This is one of the biggest reasons that the festivities there have lost their charm for many of us. I, for one, have not shed any tears because the Zapote fiestas have been canceled this year.
 
For those who have never visited the end-of-year Zapote festival, let me explain that it used to be a family-oriented event, sort of like a carnival with a midway that had rides for the kids, booths selling food and souvenirs, and of course the bull fights. After the introduction of alcohol several years ago and the granting of huge vendor spaces to various bars and night clubs, the wholesomeness of the function quickly began to fade. By 2005 Zapote had sunk to little more than a seedy hangout for drunks, drug dealers, and prostitutes. That’s when the decision was finally made to suspend the Zapote fiestas indefinitely.
 
Even the bullfights had declined to little more than a rabble of drunken young men tormenting and baiting the poor bewildered animals. These young, ­ often drunk or stoned ­ idiots were frequently injured or even killed being trampled or gored by the bull.
 
Now, what I've just been doing here with my little tirade about Zapote constitutes an illustration of yet another definition of that versatile word montarse. When a person gets onto a certain topic and simply won’t stop harping away on it, we call this a montada (¡Que montada!).  This is the equivalent of “getting up on a soapbox” in English. Here again, the person doing the montada is, por supuesto (of course), a montado/a.


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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 251  


What you can do with Rover when you are out roving
 By Noel Dekking
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Some may consider living in Costa Rica to be an extended vacation, but this doesn't stop locals from travelling within the country or around the globe, especially during the holiday season.  While many of the Costa Rican animals roam freely in the street, this is likely not the preferred care that animal owners seek for their pets while they are on vacation.  Luckily, the country is equipped with various options for almost all types of pets.

For the pet owner who feels that there's no place like home, there is a service offered by Fur and Feather Pet Care.  This company offers a home-care service where one of the representatives will visit a pet owner's home and care for the animal in its usual environment.  The cost of this service depends on the arangements, an hour will generally be $20, multiple daily visits are available, and overnight stays are $35, said the firm.

For the security and convenience of a traveller's home when away, the company will also provide free services such as bringing in newspapers or mail, watering plants, taking the garbage out, and rotating lights and curtains to give the home a lived-in appearance.
  
Fur and Feather Pet Care will accomodate for almost all pets and that special circumstances and instructions are welcomed.  The company is currently a member of Pet Sitters International and is licensed, insured and bonded.
The sitters are American Red Cross Pet CPR certified. 
More information can be found at www.furandfeatherpetcare.com/

The Association of Residents of Costa Rica offers information on other available options.  For members of the association, there is a $25-a-night service offered with a veterinarian located near San Pedro.  The service offers the convenience of leaving pets with a certified veteranarian, and pet grooming is available. For pet owners who are looking to travel throughout Costa Rica with their animal, the Association of Residents of Costa Rica also has a list of hotels that provide pet friendly accommodations.  The list does not include all areas of the country, in which case one may have to call around to a number of hotels before departing.  The Association of Residents of Costa Rica can be reached by telephone at 506-221-2053

The cheapest option is likely one of the many kennel services, but these generally only accommodate dogs and/or cats.  The yellow pages contains many of these businesses, for which the going rate is around $5 and up per night.

An example with information on the Internet is the Mi Amigo Fiel dog kennel.  The price is approximately $5 a night, depending on the size of the dog.  As in most cases, food must be provided, and while there are no veteranarians on site, the owners said that he has veteranarian contacts in the case of an emergency.  This service is located in Heredia, just outside of San José.  More information is available at www.miamigofiel.com


Newspeople plan public remembrance for slain editor
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Members of the journalism profession will conduct a remembrance ceremony Saturday for Ivannia Mora at the spot she was killed and on the same date.

The event will be Saturday, Dec. 23, near the traffic light in Curridabat where motorcycle riders gunned down the magazine editor. The day is the third anniversary of her death.

Participants plan to wear white and carry flowers and a photo of the woman.

Her friends and associates in newspapers and magazines are upset because the individuals accused of the crime were absolved Nov. 20 by what prosecutors are calling technicalities.

The judges found that key evidence in the case had been obtained improperly. Chief Judge Rocío Pérez Montenegro
read the sentence in the high-profile trial on live television.
 She was critical of the way the Ministerio Público and the Judicial Investigating Organization handled the case.

Ms. Mora, 33 when he died, was well known in the journalistic community, and many of the reporters covering the story since then were her friends.

Ms. Mora had worked with Eugenio Millot at the financial magazine Estrategia y Negocios. Shortly before her murder she left that firm to produce a similar magazine for Credomatic.

Investigators detained Millot a few days later. They claimed he hired hit men to kill his former associate.

Eventually agents implicated five men as either intermediaries or killers. They were on trial with Millot. The trial began in May.

Francisco Dall'Anesse, the chief prosecutor, appealed the decision by the judges to the Sala III criminal supreme court. A decision is awaited.


First unit of tourism police will get marching orders today
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The first tourist police for Costa Rica will be presented and sent off to popular recreation spots today.

The ceremony will be at the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública. The concept was a campaign plank for President Óscar Arias Sánchez, and he will be there tomorrow afternoon, as will other officials, including top police officers.
Administration officials are bragging that in just six months they have instituted the tourism police force. It is unknown at this point how many will be in the first unit, but the budget calls for about 30. These are supposed to be bilingual and multilingual individuals.

Bag snatchings, thefts on the beach and worse have earned Costa Rica a bad name in tourism circles, and the goal of the new police unit will be to have a presence that is mainly concerned with tourist related crime.


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