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These stories were published Friday, Sept. 26, 2003, Vol. 3, No. 192
Jo Stuart
About us
Investment firm chief target of murder scheme
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A Florida surgeon is facing a charge that he tried to kill Jerry Latulippe who once was involved in investments with him.

Latulippe lives in Florida and is the operator of the faltering Principal Services, a hedge fund that is believed to have a number of participants among the Costa Rican expat community.

The Orlando Sentinel reported that the surgeon, David Mackey, 66, tried to hire a man to find out where Latulippe might have hidden money and then kill him. The newspaper cited allegations contained in court papers.

Mackey lives in Winter Park, Fla., and Latulippe lives or lived not far away, according to persons in Costa Rica who knew both. The same person, an investor in Principal Services, said that Mackey was not an investor in that hedge fund.

According to the newspaper, the allegation is that Mackey asked a friend who was a retired deputy to suggest someone who could be a hit man. The would-be hit man was an undercover officer who taped conversations with Mackey, according to court papers published by the newspaper.

Mackey seemed to think that Latulippe has $10 million stashed in Swiss banks, and he wanted specific information on how to get that money before Latulippe was killed, according to the newspaper’s account of the court affidavits.

Mackey is free on $100,000 bond on a charge of attempted murder for hire in Orange County court.

According to the newspaper, Mackey first loaned Latulippe $10,000 to help the man broker a deal for 52,800 pounds of gold. 

Eventually the surgeon had loaned Latulippe in excess of $133,000. The newspaper cited court reports made after the surgeon sued Latulippe in 1999 and eventually received an agreement from Latulippe to pay $250,000.

Mackey was arrested Monday in a restaurant where investigators said he was giving money to the undercover officer as part of a $10,000 contract on Latulippe.

Principal Services here maintained an office in the Torre Las Mercedes on Paseo Colón. In addition to Latulippe, the most visible individual in the organization was Michael Forrest, who served as a sales agent.

In a telephone interview earlier this year Forrest said that he was in Florida working with Latulippe to generate money to pay investors. The firm is believed to have less than 150 investors, and the amount of money they gave Forrest and his associates is not known. The firm closed up shop here in March.

Forrest is still in the United States, a friend said. At least three complaints have been filed against the firm and the principals in the Costa Rican courts.

On living the narrow, comfy tried-and-true life
It recently dawned on me that most of us live very narrow lives. With all the choices out there, we tend to make the same ones over and over, never expanding our experiences. (Note, that I have the Freudian habit of generalizing from observations of myself. You are free to say, as my friend Betty justifiably can, "That’s not my problem, kiddo."). 

I was becoming aware of this at the Saturday feria where I saw dozens of fruits and vegetables that are totally strange to me. But instead of trying something new, I continue to pick out the same ones over and over — tomatoes, celery, strawberries, carrots, string beans, etc. 

Occasionally I will buy some spinach which is not like the spinach we get in the States. And I did get a couple of zapallitos, which are like the good ole familiar zucchini, and maybe even better. But that is about the extent of it. I don’t even know the names of all of these other foods nor how to prepare them. 

It is not just with food that we buy and prepare that we tend to stick to the tried and true. Think about the restaurants. How often, when you go out to eat, do you go to the same restaurant and order the same dish? And there are so many new ones opening in San José and its environs. 

Speaking of its environs, I thought, when I moved to Costa Rica over 10 years ago, that it would be a wonderful "jumping off" place. A home base from which I would visit other countries. Other than trips back to the States, Panamá and Nicaragua, I have been nowhere. I have rarely visited other parts of this country except when friends come to visit. 

And how many new friends have you made recently? I am not being accusative. Actually, these questions are directed at myself. The reason is something I was reading. It was about falling in love. There is a chemical that our bodies secrete, a chemical called phenylethylamine (PEA), which surges through our nerve cells and affects both our thoughts and our feelings. 

Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart

This chemical makes us feel euphoric, rejuvenated, optimistic and energized — able to leap over tall buildings. All of our senses are heightened. I knew and wrote about this many years ago, but what I didn’t know is that the same chemical (PEA) is secreted when we experience new thrills. 

And how can we experience new thrills or fall in love if we don’t try new things and meet new people? Once in a while two people who have known each other for years, suddenly "fall in love.’ (And I love stories like this) but it is rare. PEA is so pleasurable that it is addicting.

On the other hand, there is another group of chemicals that takes over under different circumstances. They are powerful pain relievers and they calm and reassure.us. They are the endorphins that are secreted when we experience intimacy, empathy, dependability and often shared experiences; the good feelings that come from stability, friendship and familiarity. 

They, as it turns out, are even more addictive than PEA. So there must be a reason why we tend to choose the familiar, hang on to our friends and go back to that restaurant and have that favorite dish; why we crave comfort food and miss our families and we eschew the possibility of another heartbreak and more heartburn.

It does make me wonder, though, about one of my favorite fairy tales. Was "The Princess and the Pea" sort of conundrum? Was the Princess upset that because of the pea, every new mattress was not like her old comfortable one? Or was she actually looking for a new mattress and PEA??

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Guatemalan chief prosecutor here on baby case
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The top prosecutor from Guatemala was at Casa Presidencial Thursday and President Abel Pacheco promised him backing in a battle against child-trafficking networks.

The visitor, Carlos de León, fiscal general of his country, came because Costa Rican investigators found nine Guatemalan babies, ages 2 weeks to 20 months, in a La Uruca home Sunday.  Why the babies were there and if they were in Costa Rica legally has not yet been made clear. Agents are not talking.

But Casa Presidencial considers the presence of the children as evidence that Costa Rica is being used as a transfer point in international baby trafficking. Guatemala is a place where children are stolen from hospitals and from the arms of their mothers on the street by traffickers who seek to sell the babies for adoption to First World countries.

Two of the mothers of the babies were in the home in La Uruca when it was raided, but they, too, were given six months of preventative detention, as were four associates, including one man from Honduras.

Agents also arrested Carlos Hernán Robles, the former manager of the failed state bank Banco 

Anglo. The next day Robles went to jail for 24 years due to his involvement with the bank, but a judge also piled on three months of preventative detention in the investigation of the children.

Robles has a relationship with a Florida adoption agency and he had tried to obtain the right for the agency to operate here. But officials of the Patronato Nacional de la Infancia, the child welfare branch of government, said the Florida firm still did not have that right.

No charges have been filed, and it may turn out that the children were here legally.

Pacheo issued orders that the Ministerio Público and judicial investigators work with the Guatemalan officials. One goal is to obtain positive identification of the babies, although at least four are believed to have passports.

Tuesday Rosalía Gil, minister of Niñez and the head of the Patronato, said publicly that a raid that day was more evidence of child trafficking. However, the home raided was that of a man who says he has adopted two of the babies and showed legal papers to that effect. Patronato investigators, working on an anonymous telephoned tip, took the children any way. They also took the child of a woman who worked in the house.

That case has not yet been resolved.

Giovanni Ferrari
Mauricio Perna

Two Italian fugitives
go into custody here

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two fugitives on drug charges from Italy seem to have been able to enter and leave the United States without problems.

The pair were picked up here Thursday by the Dirección de Inteligencia y Seguridad Nacional, the Judicial Investigating Organization and the International Police Agency (INTERPOL).

One man, Giovanni Ferrari, was arrested at a restaurant just east of Parque La Sabana about 12:30 p.m. He was being held on an Italian warrant alleging trafficking in drugs. Ferrari was involved in cocaine shipments from South America when he was a member of the police anti-Mafia squad in Genoa, investigators said, citing information from Italy.

Ferrari came to Costa Rica in 2000 and had visited European countries and the United States while living here. He was last in the United States when he visited Miami in November, investigators said.

Here he was vice president and treasurer of Donvito GI.FE. S.A., and Productora Donvitos S.A., firms that offer a quality line of cheese.

The second individual, Mauricio Perna, was arrested about the same time in Pavas in an operation coordinated by Dirección de Inteligencia y Seguridad Nacional, the Judicial Investigating Organization and the International Police Agency (INTERPOL).  He was being sought to face a conviction of trafficking in cocaine.

He entered Costa Rica in 2002 and made trips to Dallas, Texas, Venezuela and Spain. He is president of Productora Donvitos S.A.

Ferrari’s arrest warrant was issued by a Genoa appeals court where he faces more than 11 years in prison. Perna faces a term of more than five years after a conviction in Rome.

Chavez says U.S. plot
exists against him

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

CARACAS, Venezuela —  President Hugo Chavez says so-called Venezuelan "terrorists" are training in the United States to kill him.

President Chavez made the comment Wednesday during a speech in Caracas. He said his government has received information of a possible assassination plot against him by opponents living in the United States.

But, the Venezuelan leader said he was not going to accuse anyone of plotting to kill him because he did not have conclusive proof. The U.S. Embassy said it could not immediately comment on the remarks.

Chavez was to have attended this week's United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York, but officials in Caracas say he changed his plans, citing security concerns. Sources in Caracas said that security officials got wind of a plan to shoot down the plane that was carrying the Venezuelan president.

Chavez was elected president in 1998 and re-elected two years later. He faces a possible recall referendum sought by his political opponents.

Critics say the president has ruined the economy and is trying to model Venezuela after Communist-run Cuba. The president says he is working to improve the lives of Venezuela's impoverished majority.

Lawmakers consider
fingerprint proposal

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A  legislative committee is considering ordering the Registro Civil to take fingerprints of every person born in the country so that this proof can be used later as a precise means of identification.

The committee was the Comisión Permanente Especial de Juventud, Niñez y Adolescencia which was discussing the so-called Oswaldo and Katia law that would set up a registry for sex offenders against children.

No resolution was made in the committee but the discussion will continue. Katia is Katia Vanesa González Juárez, 8, who died July 4 at a neighbor’s home. Osvaldo is Osvaldo Faobricio Madrigal, then 3, who was kidnapped from his home in Desamparados and turned up dead in a river.

The committee also heard from Francisco Wo-Ling, a representative of Casa Alianza.

Car in tow carried
drugs, police report

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Police arrested a man driving a San José taxi when they found what they said was about 10 kilos (22 pounds) of cocaine under a seat and in the spare tire of the vehicle.

The seizure took place near Golfito on the InterAmerican highway. The taxi appears to have broken down and was being transported by a tow truck. The taxi driver, identified by the last names of Alfaro Lobo, as well as the tow truck driver, identified by the last names of Rodríguez Zuñiga, were taken into custody.

Neighbor kills
robbery suspect

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Four men with guns showed up at a home in Jocote de Los Chiles near San Carlos late Wednesday, tied up the seven residents there and began to steal items.

One victim got free and managed to give the alarm to a neighbor who came and shot dead one of the suspects when the men tried to flee. The neighbor was not identified by investigators.

The home was that of Ovidio Sálazar. The dead man was identified as Miguel Garcia Miranda, 35. 

The Fuerza Pública said that three men were arrested during a search of the area that began about 6 a.m. Thursday in conjunction with the Judicial Investigating Organization

Watchman shot in leg

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A watchman saw two men acting suspiciously and thought that they had bad intentions. 

The men tried to enter the rear of the Pizza Hut adjacent to the Hotel Confort in Santa Ana. The guard, Juan Carlos Alemán Mena confronted them and they shot him in the leg before they fled in a car. This took place just after midnight Thursday, according to the Judicial Investigating Organization.

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Government defends cost of 2004 Latin summit
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Costa Rican foreign ministry said Tuesday that being the host for the Iberio-American summit next year will be worth the cost.

Casa Amarilla, the headquarters of the Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriors y Culto, issued a statement in the name of Roberto Tovar, the minister. He was in New York.

The estimate cost of the summit is around $2 million, and the plan ran into trouble in the Asamblea Nacional when opposition lawmakers questioned the amount.

The summit is when the 21 heads of states of the Latin American governments, Spain, Portugal and the king and queen of Spain gather to exchange views.

Tovar’s statement said that the summit, called the Cumbre Iberoamericana, is an important way to promote Costa Rica. The agenda will include development, the fight against poverty, the

environment and cooperation, he said. The summit will be in November 2004.

Tovar said having the summit here also was an honor, and he reminded the legislature that the money requested was just a budget. The actual costs may reflect savings. Other nations spent between $2 and 2.5 million when they hosted the summit, he said.

To save even more money, the foreign minister said the ministry will seek to find sponsors for the event among private companies.  In addition, part of the money represents an investment in the country when the visiting governments pay for communication set ups, hotels and food, he added.  Tovar said he would provide deputies more information.

Acting Foreign Minister Marco Vinicio Vargas presented the budget to a legislative committee Wednesday, but deputies from the Moviemento Libertario, Partido Liberación Nacional, Partido Acción Ciudadana and the Bloque Patriótico called the budgeted amount too high.

Jewish High Holy Days begin today at sundown
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Jewish minority in Costa Rica begins its 10-day-long celebration of the High Holy Days beginning at sundown today.

Rosh Hashana, called the Jewish New Year, is 1 Tishri in the Jewish calendar, and the two-day holiday runs through Sunday. Rosh Hashanah is a celebration of the creation of the world, and this year it is in the Jewish year of 5764.

The time is one of contemplation and solemn reflection although traditionally there is a festive meal on the evening of the first day. On the first night the custom calls for extending greetings for a successful year. Sometimes an apple dipped in honey is eaten to signify the hope for a sweet year.

Rosh Hashana also is the holiday associated with blowing the shofar, the ram’s horn. However, strict Jews will not do this Saturday because using 

musical instruments is forbidden on the Sabbath.

The 10 days of repentance culminate with Yom Kippur, the day of Atonement, which starts at Sundown Oct. 5 this year.

The Jewish calendar is based on the lunar cycle, so each year the dates of the holidays are different. Rosh Hashana has been as early as Sept. 6 in a prior year.

Like people do Jan. 1,  many Jews use the new year period to plan a better life and make self-help vows. The degree of devotion and activities depends on religiosity and the form of Judaism the individual professes.

Five days after Yom Kippur, Jews will celebrate the Festival of Sukkot which marks the wandering in the desert that the Tribes of Israel experienced with Moses after fleeing Egypt. That begins at sundown Oct. 10. 

Trade official says U.S. wants broad treaty
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The United States is still assessing the consequences of the collapse of World Trade Organization talks in Cancun, Mexico, earlier this month, but remains committed to the creation of a comprehensive Free Trade Area of the Americas.

That’s the view expressed by Peter Allgeier, deputy U.S. trade representative. 

In remarks Thursday to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Allgeier said that though it may take months to assess the opportunities lost in Cancun and figure out how to pick up the pieces, the United States remains ready to work with the World Trade Organization and "can-do" countries that are prepared to negotiate to reduce and eliminate their tariffs, non-tariff barriers, and other trade distorting practices.

Allgeier said that there are both "can-do" and "won't-do" countries in the Americas and expressed hope that the entire region will join the ranks of "can-do" countries in order to facilitate the creation of the FTAA. Those are the terms used by his boss, Robert Zoellick, the trade representative.

"Trade remains at the center of our agenda for the Western Hemisphere," Allgeier said, adding that it is important that regional trade ministers agree on a common vision for the free trade area of the Americas at the upcoming November trade ministerial in Miami.

In contrast to the "robust" and "ambitious" treaty envisioned by hemispheric leaders at the first and subsequent Summit of the Americas meetings, Allgeier noted that Brazil and the countries of the 

South American Common Market (Mercosur) have proposed a more limited one.

This more narrow agreement, Allgeier said, has more in common with outdated past approaches than with the modern, comprehensive agreements the United States recently concluded with Chile and Singapore, and is currently negotiating with Central American nations.

Allgeier argued that the free trade approach favored by Brazil and others does not include disciplines on services, investment, government procurement or intellectual property. This strips the free trade treaty of its important role in the Summit of the Americas process, he said.

The free trade agreement, he said, is part of a much broader engagement and integration in the hemisphere and plays a critical part in promoting the social, political and judical reforms necessary to strengthen democracy and fight corruption in the region.

In charting a course for the completion of the free trade agreement by January 2005, hemispheric partners should not lose sight of "the benefits of a single region of integrated free trade," Allgeier said, and also should endeavor to move beyond a narrow tariff reduction exercise to establish transparent, predictable and fair disciplines that foster not only commerce, but rule of law and good governance.

Allgeier added that hemispheric trade officials ought to aim for as ambitious an accord as the recent U.S. bilateral agreements with Chile and Singapore, but recognize and adapt to the different sizes and levels of development of the 34 hemispheric nations engaged in the free trade agreement of the Americas negotiations.

Nigerian adultery figure wins reversal of her death by stoning
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services
and the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A Nigerian woman sentenced to death by stoning for having a child out of wedlock has won her appeal against conviction in a high-profile test case for the strict Islamic laws adopted in the north of her country. 

The news was greeted with happiness in Costa Rica, which had lobbied strongly on the woman’s behalf. President Abel Pacheco even went so far as to offer political refugee status to the woman and her two children.

Costa Ricans also engaged in a petition drive and the signatures were delivered to a Nigerian diplomat in México City.

The 31-year-old village woman, Amina Lawal, needed two appeals and the help of national women's groups to overturn the decision of the Islamic Sharia courts.

In March 2002, Ms. Lawal was found guilty of adultery, after giving birth to her daughter Wasila,

two years after she was divorced from her husband.

The case attracted international attention to the northern Nigerian town of Katsina. Human rights groups condemned the verdict and, in particular, the punishment, which was to have been death by stoning.

According to the Islamic code, Ms. Lawal was to have been buried in sand up to her neck and had stones thrown at her head until she was dead.

The guilty verdict was overturned after Ms. Lawal's defense attorneys highlighted their client's incomprehension of the charges when they were first laid against her, and procedural errors in the ruling process.

Ms. Lawal's case has been the highest-profile case before the new religious courts. Nigeria, a federal republic, has differing laws in each state. Reflecting the religious differences in the country, 12 of the northern Muslim states have adopted strict Islamic, or Sharia, law since Nigeria's return to civilian rule in 1999. 

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