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These stories were published Monday, Dec. 30, 2002, in Vol. 2, No. 257
Jo Stuart
About us

Florina Tejano is a 19th century bride
Club de Amigos Payasos de Costa Rica clown around

Liseth Montero of Cartago and friend.
Carnival 2002 brightens up San José
A swirl of colors
Not politically correct
A.M. Costa Rica photos
Tarrico nightclub duo
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The 2002 Christmas carnival filled Avenida 2 in San José Friday with both marchers and spectators.

The 80-degree weather and mostly blue skies proved a boon for beer and soda vendors.
The tope horse parade the day before was 
predictable: horse and rider after horse and 

rider. But the carnival had its share of surprises with creative floats and determined drummers.

Some 3,000 participated in the parade that began in the vicinity of Parque La Merced this year instead of Parque La Sabana much further west. More than 20 bands participated. In addition to floats and clowns, antique cars were out in force.

Immigration officials bring their raids to Jacó
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Immigration and police officials investigated patrons at three Jacó nightspots late Saturday and early Sunday. They located 30 women and a man who did not have adequate paperwork, they reported.

The nightspots were the Beatle Bar, Hollywood and Pancho Villa. Immigration officials said that the places of business had no direct links to the persons arrested.

The sweep began about 10 p.m. Saturday and involved 25 members of the Fuerza Pública and 15 immigration investigators, according to a report from the Ministerio de Seguridad Pública.

Investigators detained only 12 persons who were then taken to San José. Marco Badilla, director general of Migración y Extranjería, said that the 12, all women, included five 

Nicaraguans, five Colombians, a Canadian and a Honduran. Six of these had expired tourist visas and six had begun processing of residency based on close family ties, he said.

Those with expired visas were given five days to provide an explanation why they should not be deported. The remaining six have to show that they have begun the paperwork to legalize their stay in Costa Rica, the ministry release said.

This was the second weekend in a row that immigration officials conducted raids. The downtown area of San José was the target of a sweep Dec. 20 where more than 60 persons were detained.

Immigration officials are targeting those areas where initials contacts for prostitution take place. Many, although not all, of the persons detained Dec. 20 have been identified as foreign prostitutes.

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Tico bull mingling brought back from the dead
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Ricans and their guests still have the opportunity to be stomped by a bull for the New Year.

That unusual Christmas custom of bull baiting is on again. For a time officials had thrown the bullfighting legion into panic by condemning the bullring in Zapote due to structural problems.

But a businessman, Gerardo Hernández of Heredia, offered his ring, and the bull mingling began Christmas Day. The event will continue until Jan. 5 from 3 p.m. to about 8 p.m. each day.

Unlike the lethal Spanish version, in Costa Rica a hundred or more citizen bullfighters get in the ring and then a fighting bull is released into the crowd.

Some participants behave in a wildly dangerous 

fashion. Some pat the bull on the rump. Others try to slap the critter on the head.

Fortunately for the human participants, bulls have a short attention span. So they usually do not press the attack and chase their tormentors for long because they are distracted continually by the movement of others in the ring.

Some participants are content to keep a great distance between themselves and the bull while gaining status for being in the ring. 

The bull baiting has been a crowd pleaser at the Zapote festival and drew much of its paid spectators from the festival crowd.

Some of the participants in previous bull-fighting events had a float in the carnival parade Friday to advertise the new set up. They were trying to attract interest.

VFW meets Jan. 7
in downtown San José

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Post 11207, Veterans of Foreign Wars, will hold its regular monthly meeting on the first Tuesday of the month, Jan. 7, at 2 p.m. in the Bufo Dorado Room on the ground floor of the Gran Hotel Costa Rica next to the National Theatre. 

New business will be discussed and voted on, providing a quorum is present.  Reports of committees concerning pending activities will also be given.  All veterans are invited to attend,
but only current members of Post 11207 are eligible to vote.

The wait staff of the hotel will provide snacks or luncheon and/or beverages at standard cost to individuals.  Parking in the Gran Hotel Costa Rica parking lot is free for attendees of this event, but drivers must get a parking slip authenticated at the main desk after the meeting.

For additional information those interested may contact Ken Johnson, commander, 552-3464; Rick Garcia, adjutant/judge advocate, 282-5944; or
Bob Foster, charter member, 231-7872.

Off-duty cop killed
in Alajuelita incident

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A 24-year-old off-duty police officer died early Friday while he was working a second job as a pirate taxi driver.

Ministerio de Seguridad Pública officials identified the man as Carlos Ledezma Valverde, who worked out of the Alajuelita headquarters.

The man was driving in Concepción Arriba de Alajuelita in the company of a man identified as Manuel Arias Chávez when three men intercepted the vehicle and shot the policeman.

A quick search of the area netted investigators three suspects, according to the ministry.

Police are working
hard for holidays

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Police reported a number of arrests over the weekend at the Zapote festival and in a series of operations in Limón.

About 950 members of the Fuerza Publica are at work at the Festejos de Fin y Principio de Año in Zapote, which is just east of San José. Some 73 persons have been arrested there on charges ranging from drug posession to possession of a partial stick of dynamite.

Police also have broken up fights and encountered phony money.

Texas judge rejects
train-robbery counts

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

EL PASO, Texas — A U.S. judge has dismissed charges against 13 Mexican nationals accused of robbing a Union Pacific train and severely beating two FBI agents in September. 

The judge ordered the release of the 13 Mexicans this week, citing a lack of evidence against them, and they were returned to Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. 

The Mexican consulate in El Paso, Texas, says two other Mexican citizens still face charges in the incident and will remain in custody. 

The charges stem from a September 12 incident, in which two FBI agents were attacked when they tried to prevent a border railroad theft.

The upside is
no need for lights

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Police in the Ukrainian city of Rovno have seized a batch of radiation-contaminated Christmas trees, which were brought illegally to the city by a group of businessmen. 

Itar-Tass news agency quotes local police as saying the fir trees were cut in the forest in the neighboring Zhitomir region, which was contaminated by radioactive fallout following the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Tree-cutting in the contaminated forest has been banned for the past 15 years. 

The businessmen used forged documents to sell the trees at local markets for the upcoming Orthodox festivities. 

Banks are closed today

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Holiday closings continue today and tomorrow and many Central Valley residents head for the beaches to celebrate the new year.

Banks will be closed today and Tuesday. Some stores that had remained open for Christmas shopping will be closed for the first three days of this week. Some will remain closed until Jan. 6.

In Limón, police said they have confiscated four firearms and large quantities of fireworks. They also made a drug arrest.

Brazil’s army will get
social responsibilities

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil — The incoming defense minister, Jose Viegas, said president-elect Luiz Anacio Lula da Silva plans to use the military to assist in various social development projects.

In an interview published Sunday in the O Globo newspaper, Viegas said da Silva wants the armed forces to be a vehicle of social development in Brazil. Viegas said the army, navy and air force can contribute in carrying out social projects, such as combating hunger, at a lower cost.

However, he said the use of the military for social programs would not detract from its main mission to defend the country, even though the defense budget is shrinking.

Argentine Senate
approves new budget

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — The Senate has passed President Eduardo Duhalde's budget for 2003 and approved his choice to head the Central Bank after years of economic turmoil and depression. 

The Senate gave final congressional approval Friday to a budget that foresees Argentina's economy growing by 3 percent in the next fiscal year after a severe contraction. 

Analysts said the budget is effectively a transitional set of economic targets as the country readies for April presidential elections, but is also a condition for much-needed aid from the International Monetary Fund. 

The Senate Friday also approved former JP Morgan economist Alfonso Prat Gay as Central Bank chief in an attempt to stabilize monetary policy and boost investor confidence.
Professional Directory
A.M. Costa Rica's professional directory is where business people who wish to reach the English-speaking community may invite responses. If you are interested in being represented here, please contact the editor.


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Also, we invite you to join one of the most active discussion groups on the case.  Find out what people who care are saying. Join at irccr-subscribe@yahoogroups.com


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Chavez rejects demands that he leave presidency
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

CARACAS, Venezuela — President Hugo Chavez reiterated Sunday he would not resign, despite a four-week-old general strike aimed at unseating him. Hundreds of thousands of opposition demonstrators marched through the streets of Caracas demanding immediate elections. Chavez's opponents are planning to march on his presidential palace.

President Chavez hosted his weekly radio and TV show from a gasoline distribution center in an effort to prove that gas supplies would soon be back to normal. Even by the government's own figures, the country's vital oil industry is three-quarters paralyzed.

As each tanker truck departed, the president led a round of applause for what he calls the heroes of the "great oil battle." According to the government, the strike, which is centered on the oil industry, is the work of those who would like to see the state-owned oil company privatized. He has even suggested that foreign interests may be behind it.

Across the country, motorists have to wait in line for hours, even days, to fill their tanks - a paradox in a country ranking among the world's top five oil exporters. As a result of gas shortages and strikes in other sectors of the economy, supplies of goods, including some food items, are starting to become scarce. 

Chavez, however, says gasoline is on its way from 

neighboring Trinidad and Curacao, and the situation is under control.

A Brazilian tanker docked Saturday with enough gasoline for a few days. But oil production is less than a quarter of the normal level of about 3 million barrels a day. Refineries are mostly shut down, and exports are running at under 10 percent. Venezuela depends on exports of crude oil and refined products for over three quarters of its dollar earnings. 

The president said striking oil company employees were guilty of treason and faced possible jail terms. But the strikers themselves remain defiant, and in a speech to an opposition rally, labor leader Carlos Ortega said the president would have to kill them if he wanted the strike lifted. 

At Sunday's huge rally, copies of a civil disobedience handbook were distributed as part of the opposition's new strategy to cut short the president's term, which ends in 2007. The disobedience plan includes withholding taxes from the government.

While Chavez insists he will not step down, saying, "I think I'll never leave," the opposition says it is planning a march on the presidential palace on an as-yet unannounced date, to force him out. 

The last time that happened, back in April, 19 demonstrators were shot dead and the president was restored to power after a brief, two-day absence. 

More letters on Villalobos
A response to letter
from an investor

Dear A.M. Costa Rica: 

I assure R.E. Masek of Sacramento, Calif., that I am neither happy nor elated about anybody losing their money with Villalobos. 

Pompous, I don't think so. Maybe just tired of reading all this crap from people like him who keep looking for somebody to blame other than themselves. Nobody twisted your arm to invest with Villalobos. 

Barely scraping by? I guess your definiton of scraping by and mine must be quite different. The people I know who are scraping by definitely can't come up with 10K to invest with anybody. . . much less in Costa Rica. 

As far as IQ goes, I'm not sure what it is, but I've always thought of myself as just a normal person. You on the other hand, who, according to your letter, are a retiree who is probably twice my age, resort to "I hope your balls fall off!" They're still here. So I'll say it once again, if you didn't know what you were investing in and did it anyway then you don't have anybody to blame but yourself. 

If you were lied to about where your money was placed then I can understand your anger. 

William Oliver 
Corpus Christi, Texas



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 frequently 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


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