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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, May 27, 2016, Vol. 17, No. 104
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Fuerza Pública officers busted up a thriving business in Filadelfia de Carrillo, Guanacaste, where residents were charging tourists $10 each to have a photo taken with this boa.

Police confiscated the three-meter snake and remanded it to a refuge because they assumed a violation against taking wildlife out of the wilds.
Ministerio de Seguridad Pública photo

Nine police officers face home invasion allegations
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Judicial investigators detained nine Fuerza Pública officers Thursday and said they were members of an organized gang that invaded homes to steal and rob.

The police officers worked in Tibás, two downtown districts in San José Centro, Hospital and El Carmen, and in Aserrí. They are accused of using their status as police officers to enter homes where there were people present. They also are accused of using police vehicles and other equipment. Officials said the men used their knowledge of the areas that they gained from their police patrols.

The arrests are a major public relations blow to the Ministerio de Seguridad Pública, which is seeking to have a tax on corporations renewed to provide it more funds. The ministry issued press releases Thursday saying it was working with investigators.

Gustavo Mata, the security minister, reported later Thursday that the nine had been fired from the force. That is the result of a policy that has only been in force this year. In the past, police accused of crimes were put on paid leave.  Juan José Andrade, head of the Fuerza Pública, said that four other officers have been fired this year for other breaches.

He identified the suspects by the last names of Alvarez, Mesa, López, Calderón Castro, Vargas

Ramírez, Abarca Torres, Mora Solano, Olloa Caballo and Coronado Canal. Some have worked for as long as 15 years with the police agency. Others have only two years of service, he said.

Both Andrade and Walter Espinoza, head of the Judicial Investigating Organization, provided only minimal details when they met the press.

Andrade did say that since 2013 there have been 416 complaints against members of all the agencies under the ministry. That includes the  Fuerza Pública, the anti-drug police, the Servicio Nacional de Guardacostas and the ministry’s air wing, he said.

Espinoza said that at least four other persons were sought as members of the robbery ring but they were not public employees.

Investigators were assisted by videos from cameras installed by homeowners. In at least one of the videos, the intruders are seen using a Fuerza Pública pickup truck.

When the intruders found persons at home in a targeted dwelling, they pretended they were conducting an official raid, but once inside they threatened and tied up those present and sacked the home.

Judicial investigators and prosecutors are working on a number of cases that involved alleged wrongdoing by police.

Rainbow flag going up over the U.S. Embassy
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Staffers at the U.S. Embassy will raise the rainbow flag of sexual diversity Wednesday to show support to lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transsexuals and intersexuals, the embassy said in an announcement Thursday. The flag will fly for a month.

The event will be at 8:15 a.m. at the embassy in Pavas with the participation of Ambassador S. Fitzgerald Haney.

Intersex may be a term that is not familiar to many U.S. expats.  The word refers to individuals who have sex characteristics, including genitals, gonads and chromosome patterns, that do not fit typical binary notions of male or female bodies, according to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

This condition is known as hermaphrodism in animals but the use of that term to refer to humans is considered inappropriate now.

The U.S. State Department has been particularly sensitive to the rights of members of these groups.

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U.S. State Department photo

Secretary of State John Kerry noted earlier this month that the embassies and consulates of the United States work closely with the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and intersexual communities. The department even has appointed a special emissary for human rights, Randy Berry, to raise the issue with high officials of other governments, Kerry said.

The State Department emphasis of gay rights has been credited to Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of State who is now the leading Democratic presidential candidate. However, the department has been criticized for its uneven condemnation of anti-gay laws in other countries. For example, little is said about the Saudi death penalty for homosexuality.

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