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These stories were published Friday, Dec. 20, 2002, in Vol. 2, No. 252
Jo Stuart
About us
Caribbean woes
just won't go away

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The government of Costa Rica is depending on the help of citizens to provide emergency supplies for the Caribbean coast.

"The authorities do not have the possibility of moving ahead alone. We need that package of rice, of beans, and also clothes and gifts for the children of the zone," said Lineth Saborío Thursday.

She is the first vice president of the republic. She reminded Costa Ricans that they should aid those families who lost everything in the strong rains that hit Limón and the Caribbean coast in the last days of November. 

In addition to the physical devastation of the area, tourism has taken a big hit because people are being warned against visiting the area due to damaged roads and bridges.

Vice President Saborío noted that a marathon will be held in Limón Saturday with live music and various acts with the goal of collecting financial aid for the region.

Although most of the obvious damage has been mitigated, emergency officials estimate that 75,000 persons have been affected and 70 percent of the agricultural production has been hit.

Of the 5,600 persons who were forced from their homes, only about 40 remain in public shelters. Some of these are in the Escuela de Bratsi in Talamanca and two sites in Valle de Estrella.

Vice President Saborío noted the double problem faced by the Caribbean coast. First there is the recovery effort from the heavy rains and flooding. But in addition to that is the extensive poverty that has always gripped the area.

 In addition to Talamanca and Valle de Estrella, the areas hit the most are Turrialba, Sarapiquí de Heredia, Matina, Siquirres, Pococí y Guácimo. Talamanca, populated heavily by Indians, is not accessible in some areas even in the best of weather.

More than 18,000 daily food rations have been sent to the area. Earlier this month President Abel Pacheco ordered the country’s ministries to work together to try  to bring the area back to normal, but this week he also ordered an overall 3 percent reduction in the ministry expenses.

The Cruz Roja and the Comisión Nacional de Emergencias are coordinating aid to the stricken area.

Downtown sweep
nets 50 persons

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A police sweep Thursday night combed the tourist district of San José for persons without valid documents.

Some 50 persons were detained. The majority were women from Colombia, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic and Central European countries. Most were in the several bars frequented by male tourists.

The sweep was by police and immigration officials who have conducted such operations on a regular basis for at least the last year.

The area is a magnet for single women from other Latin lands where the living standards are lower than in Costa Rica. However, several U.S. citizens were believed to have been picked up in the sweep.
It's time to get
your cellular 

Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart

I Still Get a Kick from Champagne

Last weekend was the Festival of Lights. I missed it. At least I missed the parade. I am not particularly fond of fireworks, but my apartment has practically a front row seat to the show, so I could sit comfortably on my balcony and watch them. It was quite a show, and I was impressed with how fireworks have improved over the years. Bursting balls of color that changed and seemed to come right at me were awe-inspiring.

However, I no longer like to stand in the sun (or the rain) and watch a parade go by. There are other things I no longer get excited about doing like lying on the beach in the sun or body surfing in the ocean. I still like the thought of jumping rocks in a creek, but climbing rocks leaves me cold. 

I guess that is why lately I have been thinking more and more about a quote I saw in Time Magazine many years ago. Some titled English lady had just turned 70 or 80, and celebrated with a quiet party with a few friends. She had been a famous beauty and party girl in her youth. 

A reporter asked her if she regretted that she no longer could dance and party all night as she once did in the 20s and 30s. She replied, "Fortunately, I stopped wanting to do those things some time before I no longer was able to."

I understand that statement. However, there are still many things I continue to enjoy and new things that I look forward to. Walking downtown San José is a spirits-raising, energizing experience. Actually, walking anywhere in San José is interesting and in some ways has replaced jumping rocks. 

I love to play charades and Trivial Pursuits and being with good friends. High on the list of what I still enjoy is discovering new restaurants, enjoying good food and good conversation with friends. Many new restaurants are opening in and around San José. Some of them close almost as quickly. 

One that is probably a couple of years old and still going is LAncora, an Italian restaurant in Barrio Dent (or perhaps Barrio Escalante I am not sure where borders are). It is just six blocks north of Bagelman’s, on the street that runs alongside Bagelman’s. It is in a remodeled house and is both cozy and comfortably elegant. It also is very Italian. They have recently expanded the menu. My favorite antipasti is the salmone marinato, smoked salmon with capers and dots of sour cream. 

One of my favorite salads is their caesar. I could use fewer croutons, but otherwise it is tasty. (I used to make a Brutus salad. When people asked what it was, I explained it was my stab at caesar.) 

They have over a dozen pastas ranging in price from 1,700 to 5,500 colons (the latter, with lobster and crab, of course). 

The last time I went there with a friend, we shared a caesar salad and then a pizza. Their pizza is thin crusted which I like. We ordered the bacon pizza, but when it arrived, the bacon looked uncooked. So of course, we were concerned. The waiter assured us that their bacon is cured like Serrano ham, and it turned out to be really good. (I like anchovies on my pizza but few people share this preference.) 

LAncora has a large selection of other main dishes, including rabbit, and even steak and lobster. Their special, listed on the old menu as chef’s tongue, made me reluctant to try it. On the new menu it is tongue at the chef’s style, which sounds less drastic. I must try it. 

My companion and I agreed that the servings were so large it would be impossible for us to finish one alone. Even the caramel flan that we shared seemed more than one person could eat. 

Over dinner we talked about good food and other restaurants we would try. I still enjoy doing that, especially while sipping a glass of champagne. 

More Jo Stuart:



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Now rush is on to get one of the new cell phones
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The dam seems to have given way in the distribution of cellular telephones.

After a wait of upwards of one year, the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad says it can put 400,000 more lines into service. These are the GSM technology, similar to the system in use in México.

Since Monday, the institute has been filling orders and turning on telephone lines. The lines go first to the persons and companies that have been on a waiting list. Later, the institute will let persons with existing cellular lines opt for the new technology.

Despite institute claims to the contrary, some customers say that service is not available in all parts of the country. Others say that despite the new technology, there are few services that are now offered that take advantage of the possibilities. Among other features, GSM will allow a customer to access the Internet from the hand-held telephone.

The institute, which also is the phone company, said that anyone on the waiting list with a number lower than 750,000 can apply for a cellular telephone. A year ago, the telephone company was handing out numbers in the 475,000 range.

There are two ways to get the cellular telephone. A user may go to an institute office or he or she may go to one of the 350 points of sale in the country. These include popular appliance stores as well as cellular companies. To make an appointment for the institute, a customer needs to call 193, the customer service number.

Retail stores are not requiring appointments although some claim that waits of two hours are common to actually get the telephone working.

In either case, the user has to bring a telephone capable of using the GSM technology. Even at the retail outlets customers may bring in their own telephones.  Such telephones sell new from 45,000 colons (about $120). The customer also must pay a 25,000 colon ($66) security fee either at a retail outlet or at an institute office. 

A customer should bring an original and photocopy of his or her cédula or relevant personal identification. Corporate  customers need an appropriate certificate, a personaría jurídica, sworn to by a notary, showing that the company is real and able to do business.

Officials also would like a current land-line telephone bill or another utility bill showing the physical location of the customer.

Two groups grabbed in anti-drug investigations
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Investigators announced the arrests of two separate groups said to be major distributors of drugs.

The Judicial Investigating Organization said it had finished a months-long probe into a group that supplied synthetic drugs, including one normally used by veterinarians, to youngsters in dance clubs. Arrests were made in San Rafael de Escazú, San Pedro and Tibás.

The Policía de Control de Drogas said they had detained 15 suspects in what they said was an extensive drug ring operating in Puntarenas and extending to the Nicoya Peninsula to Cóbano and Montezuma. They said the ring was headed by two sisters in their 20s.

The Judicial Investigating Organization made its first arrests in San Pedro Oct. 23. There Alvaro Salas, 18, and Jonathan Algura, 28, were arrested. Confiscated were six kilos (13.2 pounds) of marijuana and 36 ecstasy pills. On Dec. 11 agents arrested a third suspect, Orlando Carvajal, in Tibás. They confiscated marijuana, cocaine and more ecstasy pills.

Two more suspects, Oscar Araya, 28, and Mauricio Castro, 28, were arrested in Escazú. Investigators said that Castro also was a suspect in the stickup of a Banco Agricola de Cartago branch in Zapote. Cocaine, a half-kilo of marijuana, more ecstasy pills and the substance Quetamine also were confiscated.

Quetamine is a veterinarian anesthetic that is injected by youngsters to reach a high similar to that of LSD. 

The substance can also be put in drinks or mixed with other drugs. Medical reports say that the substance can be extremely dangerous when mixed with alcohol. The substance is spelled "ketamina" in Spanish.

Investigators said that the drug gang specialized in distributing substances to youngsters at so-called "raves" and other dance locations.

The drug police of the Ministerio de Seguridad Pública said that they had been working on the Puntarenas case for two months.

The arrests came Wednesday in Fray Casiano in Puntarenas. The two sisters, who were said to be the administrative leaders of the group, were identified as G. Montenegro López, 29, and M. Montenegro López, 26.

A third sister, M. Montenegro López, 34, was located in Cóbano. Also arrested there was A. Zúñiga Ruiz, 21,  known as "Changai" in Montezuma and other Nicoya beach communities.

In the home of the two sisters, agents said they confiscated crack cocaine, marijuana, cash and weapons. They also took vehicles and one boat. 

In all, 15 persons associated with this group were arrested. Police said the operation primarily involved one family.

General strike continues
in shaken Venezuela

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

CARACAS, Venezuela — Striking oil workers say they will remain off the job for the 19th day Friday in defiance of a Supreme Court ruling ordering them to restart oil operations immediately. 

The court issued the temporary order Thursday while considering the legality of the general strike aimed at forcing President Hugo Chavez out of office. It is not clear when the court will make a decision on the matter. 

The nation normally pumps about 2.5 million barrels of oil daily, but the ongoing labor action has reduced production to about 300,000 barrels. The strike also has stopped shipments from the world's fifth-largest exporter, a key U.S. supplier, and contributed to soaring world oil prices. 

Earlier, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell expressed concern about the situation in Venezuela and charged both sides in the dispute with what he called "intransigence." 

He also said the United States has presented some ideas to international mediators for solving Venezuela's political crisis. The chief of the Organization of American States, César Gaviria, has been in Caracas mediating between the Chavez government and its opponents. 

Venezuelan gas station owners say the strike has forced 70 percent of the stations in Caracas to close. In some areas, motorists have spent hours in line waiting to fill their tanks. Venezuela also has asked neighboring Colombia for fuel, but officials in Bogota say they will not be able to fill that request.

Brazil gets $3 billion
to shore up economy

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The International Monetary Fund, the multi-lateral lender that helps countries in financial distress, says it is lending $3 billion to Brazil as part of its effort to contain the latest debt crisis in Latin America. The fund plans to extend emergency loans to Argentina as well. 

Argentina this week reportedly made a $124 million debt payment to several international creditors, including the fund. With presidential elections looming, Argentina is scrambling to reactivate an economy hammered by last year's currency devaluation and default on debt payments. Fund spokesman Tom Dawson says his organization is ready to help once Argentina develops a credible budget plan.

On Thursday, the fund disbursed $3 billion to Brazil, Latin America's biggest economy and largest debtor. Brazil's economy has endured a fall out from the Argentine crisis, the global economic slowdown, and uncertainty in the run up to October presidential elections won by a leftist populist who promised to boost government spending. Brazil's economy has stopped growing and very little growth is expected next year. 

The fund is also preparing emergency help for smaller Latin American economies like Uruguay and Ecuador. 

Meanwhle, in Buenos Aires, thousands of poor and jobless Argentines have marched to show their discontent with years of economic turmoil in the South American nation.

The banner-waving protesters rallied Thursday as police guarded the city's main government buildings as well as banks and other symbols associated with Argentina's economic decline.

The street rallies kicked off two days of demonstrations timed to coincide with the first anniversary of deadly riots that toppled the elected government of President Fernando de la Rua.

At least 27 people died in the three days of rioting and looting that swept Argentina last December as the economy unraveled amid a prolonged recession.  The political turmoil triggered a succession of five presidents in two weeks and forced Argentina to default on $151 billion in public debt.

Britain listed as free
of animal disease

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Department of Agriculture has added Britain to a list of regions considered free of foot-and-mouth disease. The change in disease status covers England, Scotland, Wales, and the Isle of Man.

The department’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service announced the decision in a press release that describes which British products and by-products are now allowed in the United States and which are still prohibited.

Mexicans may join
U.S. Social Security

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Bush administration is considering an agreement with Mexico that would add tens of thousands of Mexicans working legally in the United States to the U.S. Social Security system.

White House officials say no final decision has been made, but U.S. and Mexican officials are discussing the issue.

An agreement with Mexico could add 162,000 beneficiaries in the first five years, and would cost the U.S. government about $1 billion a year. The United States already has similar agreements with 20 countries, ranging from Canada to South Korea. 
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Monitoring group finds an upsurge in freedom
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

In its annual survey on freedom, the human rights monitoring group Freedom House finds that democracy is steadily progressing across the globe in spite of the threat of terrorism and a downturn in the worldwide economy. 

Freedom House focuses on two major categories, political rights and civil liberties, in its annual assessment. In 2002, the group says 29 nations made gains while 11 experienced setbacks. Free elections, regime changes, and vibrant civic activity moved four nations, Brazil, Lesotho, Senegal and Yugoslavia, into the ranks of nations described as "free." 

The group's president, Adrian Karatnycky, says greater political freedoms take the edge off of extremism. "One of the things we are seeing is that the global economic downturn has, as in past years, exerted pressure. But in decades when anti-democratic ideologies were dominant, people would turn to communism or to some form of fascism or some form of ultranationalism as an answer," he said. "I think that, increasingly, because there is the infrastructure of democratic governance, people are basically turning to more moderate alternatives in policy." 

Karatnycky says the biggest disappointment of 2002 is the African nation of the Ivory Coast. 

"The greatest setback that we register this year is Cote d'Ivoire, which has had a terrible military rebellion, which has divided the country in a rampant civil war, which has jeopardized its political freedoms," he said. "Guatemala, we were worried about and have seen increased violence and the reappearance of death squads amid substantial corruption. 

"It has had a bit of slippage, although not as dramatic as we see in Cote d'Ivoire." 

The Freedom House survey rates nations as "free," "partly free" or "not free." Nations that tolerate 

some degree of respect for political rights and civil liberties fall into the "partly free" category. 

After three decades of little change, Karatnycky says the study found a few signs of limited progress in the Islamic world during the last year. 

"We point to Senegal, which is a majority Islamic country, which also had a rotation of power, an opposition coming into power after an entrenched political party had been in power for a long time," he said. 

"We see it in Bahrain where its monarch has decided one of the ways to counter political radicalism is to allow greater civic discussion and open civic political participation. So that country is progressing. There is a discussion about a similar reform going on in Qatar." 

The group also finds limited progress in the areas of personal freedom and privacy in China, but not enough to change its ranking as one of the world's least free societies. Iran also remained unchanged in the Freedom House survey as the widespread civic ferment of previous years abated. 

As it marks the 30th anniversary of the survey, Karatnycky says the group has witnessed a dramatic trend toward freedom. 

"It is really remarkable that in 1972 there were 43 countries that we rated as free. It is up to 89 now. It has more than doubled. The number of countries in which there are basic rights and civil liberties, not perfect countries by any means, has not only doubled, but gone up as a proportion of the world from 29 percent to 46 percent while the number of "not free" countries has gone from 46 percent in 1972 to only one-quarter of all the countries. So there has been this substantial increase." 

According to the survey, 63 percent of the nations of the world have democratically elected governments, a sign, Karatnycky says, of an indomitable will toward democracy and political participation. 

More letters on Villalobos
He suggests law is 
in hands of fiscal

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

As you say in your editorial offering a reward for information about Villalobos and Milanes, "  . . .  the law is the law," and as a fan of "Rule of Law," I would be among the last to encourage law-breaking. But "the law is the law" is not the whole story of what the law is. I still remember vividly the first meeting of the first class in my first year of law school, some 47 years ago. The professor's topic for discussion was "What is law?" and at the end of the hour, after dealing students' answers ranging from idealistic to sophomoric, he said: "Law is what the sheriff will do."

The sheriff may be a diligent public servant. He may be an overzealous loose cannon. He may be on the take. But what he will do is, for all practical purposes, the law. The law is not what the code says, for the code only tells the court what to say. The law is not what the court says, for the court only tells the sheriff what to do.

That, my first lesson in the law, is something everyone should keep in mind. In Costa Rica, as in the United States, a prosecutor can persuade a court in a one-sided procedure, on very scanty preliminary evidence, to tell the sheriff to take a person into custody. To me this means that the sheriff will try to find the person and take him into custody. To me, it does not necessarily mean that I, you, or anyone else, should help the sheriff do his job. That is a moral, not a legal, question, and I assure you there are at least two sides to it. 

Indeed, it is a question the best answers to which may well be different in the cases of Villalobos and Milanes, and linking those two together as you do with the silly slogan you use betrays a shallow understanding of the situation. 


Bryant Smith
Playa Palo Seco
He urges investors
to go get the duo

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I see today that there are two large photos of Villalobos and Milanes, and a $500 reward for information leading to their whereabouts. All of these 6,000 investors should get together and call Americas Most Wanted and really put the pressure on these two. I would imagine that they would have some interest due to the fact that they absconded with such large amounts of money and screwed up so many lives. 

Don't get me wrong, I still think that the investors were stupid and greedy, but these two men should be locked up for a long time and not be on some Island spending the fruits of their long-standing scheme. 

I do not seem to be reading anymore letters from investors saying how wonderful Mr. Villalobos is. Looks like maybe some of these people are waking up and saying "Hey We Have Been Screwed" Well maybe it is time for these people to say lets get the SCREWER, which is Guess Who? Villalobos & Milanes. 

The only solution at this point is to get these two men locked up and then maybe, just maybe you will have a chance to get some money back. If they were to face long jail terms, you will see how fast they will cough up the money. 

Many of you so called investors, should go on the program here in the U.S.A. called JACKASSES. This is a show where young people do absolutely crazy stunts with a very good chance of getting hurt. Well the STUNT that these two men pulled off really hurt alot of people. Better known as JACKASSES. 

Get them locked up and then let them scramble instead of all the investors. GO GET EM - JACKASSES. 

Robert W. DePretis
Ron Tucker finds
'attack' unacceptable

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I could scarcely believe what I read in A.M. Costa Rica today. Reluctantly, I concluded that you have descended to a depth I would not have thought possible. Last week AL DIA devoted two full pages to demonstrating the unimpeachable character of Luis Enrique Villalobos. Those of us who have known him for years concurred with this excellent reporting. Your attack on him today is totally unacceptable. You have fallen into the trap of finding him guilty of what? of being more intelligent, cleverer than the poor, inexperienced prosecutor.

You are also extremely poorly informed about Keith Nash. He has been a guest in my home, attended a class I taught regularly, and is now the victim of a greedy son. I saw Keith regularly until September, and in my opinion, there is no way that he can manage anything on his own. Lawyer R L took on the case in hopes of a 30 percent commission. Love of money! 

When Enrique is vindicated in a short time, I believe, you'll be in the company of a few scoundrels with egg on their faces. I'm glad I'm not in your shoes. 

Greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world.

Ron Tucker



Luis Enrique Villalobos Camacho

Our reward offer is $500

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

This newspaper seeks the prompt return of two men who ran high-interest investment operations that have gone out of business.

Luis Enrique Villalobos Camacho, 62, was associated with Ofinter S.A., a money exchange house, and with his own private investment business that had about $1 billion in other people's money on the books. 

Villalobos closed his business Oct. 14 and vanished.

Louis Milanes operated Savings Unlimited and several casinos in San José. He left the country with other members of his firm the weekend of Nov. 23. He may have as much as $260 million in his possession.

Both operations catered to North Americans. Villalobos had about 6,300 customers. Milanes had about 2,400.

Villalobos is the subject of an international arrest warrant. Milanes is not yet named in such a document. although a case has been opened against him in Costa Rica. Associates of both men have been jailed.

A.M. Costa Rica has posted a $500 reward for information leading to the detention of either man with the hopes that others will make similar pledges. The newspaper believes that investors only will see some of their money when the two men are in custody.

Milanes has few supporters in San José. On the other hand, as the letters on this page show, Villalobos still has supporters who believe that he will reappear and settle his debts. They believe he is in hiding because of a predatory Costa Rican government.

Louis Milanes

Reader unexcited
by reward amount

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

$500!!!!! Are you guys serious? I think that I will quit my job and go looking for those two guys. If I find them, do I get the money all in one payment or will it be in installments? You can tell that the kids are out of school right now, because they have more time to dedicate to the A.M. Costa Rica writing. Keep up the good entertainment.

Richard Godfrey 
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