Minor Vargas guilty of fraud

first_imgNo related posts. From the print editionWASHINGTON, D.C. – A 15-member jury convicted Costa Rican businessman Minor Vargas, 60, on Monday of one count of conspiracy and three counts each of mail fraud, wire fraud and money laundering to the tune of more than $600 million in a federal case tried in the U.S. city of Richmond, Virginia. Vargas could face up to 182 years in prison. He will be sentenced in October. Vargas’ company, Provident Capital Indemnity Ltd., sold bonds guaranteeing funding for life-settlement companies, whichbuy life insurance policies from insured people at less-than-face value and collect benefits when those people die. Jury members found that Provident selected victims who were older or who were likely close to death. The jury also believed that Vargas lied to his clients and investors, and was aware of the actions of his employees, including the company’s accountant, who defrauded clients with false company information and non-existent bonds. Vargas spent more than a year behind bars in a Virginia jail while awaiting a trial that was delayed twice because of the magnitude of the financial losses and the enormous amount of evidence in the case. The trial lasted more than a week, but the jury took only three hours to render a guilty verdict.Throughout the trial, Vargas maintained his innocence, saying he inherited the troubled company and tried to fix its  problems by enlisting accountant Jorge Castillo. In January, Castillo pled guilty in exchange for a lighter sentence. Prosecutors had originally asked for a 28-year sentence for Castillo, who testified against his former boss on Tuesday.For a year, U.S. federal prosecutors waded through a mountain of documents, copies of financial statements from several banks, and hundreds of emails that required translation from Spanish to English.Key witnesses in the case include IRS agents and U.S. postal employees, whose testimonies helped bring a conviction. The case has drawn significant attention both in Costa Rica and the U.S. Thousands of victims in numerous countries were defrauded, some losing their entire life savings.Prosecutors described in detail and with the help of several visual aids the true amount of funds the company had to backup the bonds they offered clients, a number that was miniscule compared to what the company told its customers. Some of the most incriminating evidence included emails that showed that Vargas was aware of false company statements to victims in order to collect on fake bonds. Vargas not only misrepresented the company’s assets but also lied when he told clients, investors and regulators that Provident was protected by reinsurance agreements with major companies,the jury found.In total, 21 witnesses testified against the Costa Rican businessman, including several of the company’s clients. Attorney Michael Dry, who declined to comment on the case, headed the U.S. government’s team of prosecutors. Vargas’ attorney, Jeffrey Everhart, did not indicate if he would appeal the conviction. Castillo and Vargas are being held in the Pamunkey Regional Jail outside of Richmond awaiting sentencing. Castillo will be sentenced in September, and Vargas will likely be transferred to an unnamed federal prison.In Costa Rica, Vargas became a publicly prominent person by founding magazines and newspapers. He was also involved in professional soccer as president of Saprissa, one of the top teams in the country. He later bought two soccer franchisesand began a synthetic turf business that won several contracts for replacing soccer fields for local professional teams. Facebook Commentslast_img read more

Two passengers injured during forced beach landing of private airplane

first_imgNo related posts. The forced landing of a small airplane in the Pacific province of Puntarenas resulted in two injured crew members Tuesday evening.Nayuribe Vargas, spokeswoman for Civil Aviation Authority, told Channel 6 Repretel that the crew: Alexandro Borja, a Spanish national and Ronald Ray a U.S. citizen, were taken to local hospital Monseñor Sanabría for a physical evaluation. Red Cross responders who attended the injured crew members at site reported the patients’ condition “as stable.”The aircraft, a Cessna 421, took off Tuesday afternoon in Liberia, capital of the northwestern province of Guanacaste, and was headed towards the Tobias Bolaños Airport in San José.Civil Aviation reports stated that the pilot reported a malfunction of the plane’s navigation equipment, and he asked for help from the radar crew at the Juan Santamaría International Airport to reach a local airport in Chacarita, Puntarenas. However, the pilot was forced to land at a beach in the small community of Cocal at around 6 p.m.On Wednesday the foreigners were discharged from the hospital. The plane’s owner decided not to recover the aircraft and to donate it to the community. A neighbor’s association will sell the aircraft as scrap and the funds will be invested in community projects. Facebook Commentslast_img read more

Guatemala fights to retain favored trade status with Europe

first_imgGUATEMALA CITY – There’s not a cocktail bar in Central London that doesn’t stock Guatemala’s famous Ron Zacapa, an English Starbucks that hasn’t launched a “Guatemala Cappuccino,” or a high-end British supermarket that doesn’t sell petit pois straight from the country’s highlands, according to Guatemalan Embassy staff in London.Outside the United States, Guatemala’s biggest export market is Europe, and within that: Great Britain. Trade between the two countries has been steadily increasing over the past few years, and with the recently introduced free trade agreement between the European Union (EU) and Central America, commerce from Guatemala to the U.K, and vice versa, is set to grow even further.Acisclo Valladares has been the Guatemalan ambassador to the U.K. for three years.“In 2010 we didn’t have any economic investment sections,” says Valladares, who ran for president twice before taking up his current position in London.Valladares and his team recently chaperoned a group of British businessmen to Guatemala, as part of Explore Guatemala, and helped give them an insight into the commercial opportunities that exist in the country. Investment missions like these led the health insurance giant BUPA to begin operating in Guatemala and Pollo Campero to set up shop in southern England.After more than a year in planning, the EU free trade agreement with Central America entered into full effect earlier this month, giving the region access to a market of more than 500 million Europeans.The benefits of the agreement include the elimination of the majority of import tariffs, an improvement in international relations between the two areas and more easily accessible investment markets. However, it’s not just about trade clauses. Central American countries must also abide by development policies such as introducing programs to fund the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals, which include universal elementary education and the eradication of poverty, among others, and complying with international conventions relating to human and labor rights.The Guatemalan government was recently warned by an international delegation of labor activists that if conditions in the country for trade unionists failed to improve, it could face losing its favored trade status with the EU.Guatemalan Labor Minister Carlos Contreras Solórzano says the possibility of Europe closing its borders to Guatemala is a concern for the government.“Of course it worries us that if the European Union, or whatever other business partner of ours, limits our exportations it will affect our workers because it will be the workers who will be left without jobs. We need jobs and we need to participate in the global market. We’ve made efforts to demonstrate that we want to comply with international labor rules and have a place in the global market,” he says.The Guatemalan government is currently working with the International Labor Organization to improve working conditions in the country for workers and trade unionists in an effort to remain part of the free trade agreement between the EU and Central America. Facebook Comments Related posts:Guatemala’s Pacaya Volcano spits ash, gases A landmark genocide case comes to unexpected and dramatic end As trade unionist attacks continue, Guatemala faces tough decisions Business helps empower Guatemalan women and preserve an ancient tradelast_img read more

Costa Ricas rising inequality outpaces other Latin American countries

first_imgNo related posts. The success enjoyed by Costa Rica’s high productivity, export-driven sector isn’t likely to trickle down to the rest of the economy anytime soon, according to the 19th State of the Nation report released Tuesday.The annual comprehensive assessment of social, economic and environmental issues in Costa Rica observed that the growing high-productivity, export-driven sectors of the economy have concentrated the country’s economic success in a few elite groups, both socially and territorially, contributing to the country’s widening inequality gap.The report noted with concern that Costa Rica was the only country out of several Latin American countries whose GINI coefficient increased between 2001 and 2011.According to the report, Costa Rica is entering a period of high-income inequality after reporting a 0.518 GINI coefficient, a measure of national income distribution, in 2012 – the highest since 1987.The top 10 percent of Costa Ricans make 24.8 times as much as the poorest 10 percent.However, the report also said that the average quality of life for Ticos has increased during the same period.Jorge Vargas Cullell, temporary director of National Council of University Rectors’ (CONARE) State of the Nation Program, said, however, that improvements in the average Tico’s quality of life were not enough to offset the negative effects of widening inequality.“If we only worry about the average level of quality of life for the average person then we’d be fine, no problem, but inequality generates problems of internal social cohesion and lower levels of political participation because people feel like they belong to different countries, so they’re not interested in participating in the decision making process,” Cullell told The Tico Times.“For a small country like us, that has few other resources besides people, controlling the problem of inequality is extremely important,” added the program director. Cullell said that a lack of labor policy and low high school graduation rates reinforce the gap between the “new” export-oriented economy and the “old” one focused on agriculture and domestic industrial production.“If you look at a graph of exports from free-trade zones, the story of the country is a success. But if you get rid of the free-trade zones the export history of Costa Rica is much less successful,” observed Cullell.Only 46.3 percent of Ticos between 17 and 21 have completed high school, according to the 4th States of Education report, released earlier this year, preventing them from applying to many of the best-paid jobs.View the full State of the Nation report from CONARE online here.  According to data from the World Bank, Costa Rica is one of the only countries in the region that has seen a growing inequality gap during the last 20 years, despite enjoying a growing economy. The graph shows data from 1990 to 2010. Facebook Commentslast_img read more

Sloth Kong Reigns Costa Rica conquers Group of Champions

first_imgRelated posts:Can Costa Rica defy the odds and conquer Group D (or at least score a goal)? Despite upset, Costa Rica still getting no respect from oddsmakers against Italy The Sloth Kong dance Underdogs no more: Costa Rica seen as favorites against Greece Sloth Kong and Costa Rica conquer Group D, and the three former World Cup champions they faced in Brazil. The Ticos’ next goal: Reach the quarterfinals for the first time in their history. Time for a brief moment of relaxation — with a special product from Uruguay (legal marijuana), Italy (pizza) and England (the Queen’s crown) — before Sloth Kong prepares to scale Mount Olympus.See our full Sloth Kong series:Costa Rica vs. UruguayCosta Rica vs. ItalyCosta Rica vs. EnglandCosta Rica vs. GreeceCosta Rica vs. the Netherlands 1Costa Rica vs. the Netherlands 2Sloth Kong says, “Thank you, La Sele” Facebook Commentslast_img read more

Lawmakers elect Montserrat Solano as Costa Ricas new ombudswoman

first_imgRelated posts:Lawmakers announce top three candidates to lead Ombudsman’s Office Naming a new ombudsman could take weeks, Costa Rica Assembly president says Legislative Assembly delays announcement of top candidates for Ombudsman’s Office New ombudswoman will prioritize complaints against hikes in utility rates, fuel prices After three rounds of voting, Costa Rican lawmakers on Tuesday night elected journalist Montserrat Solano Carboni as the country’s new ombudswoman for the next four years.Solano was one of three top candidates recommended by the Legislative Assembly’s Appointments Commission after 98 people were interviewed beginning on July 14.It took lawmakers three rounds of voting to finally reach the 29 votes necessary to elect Solano. Those votes came from the ruling Citizen Action Party and the National Liberation Party. Attorney Román Navarro – not originally among the top three candidates – came in second with 28 votes.The two other candidates proposed by the Appointments Commission – attorney Ricardo Valverde and educator Yanis Quesada – captured no votes in the final round.Waiting for Solano, a journalist who also holds a master’s degree in law with a focus on human rights, are more than 500 complaints that have accumulated since the resignation of former Ombudswoman Ofelia Taitelbaum on July 7, following an announcement by lawmakers and Judicial Investigation Police that they would investigate allegations she had committed tax fraud and identity theft. Facebook Commentslast_img read more

Casa Presidencial flies provincial flags

first_imgPresident Luis Guillermo Solís really likes flags. Casa Presidencial announced that alongside the Costa Rican national tricolor, the seven flags of the country’s provinces also will fly over the president’s offices in Zapote, a southeastern district of the capital. Casa Presidencial said the provincial flags would stay up for the entirety of his four-year term.“After having the flags of the Central American nations to honor our independence and that of the region, it is now time to place the flags that represent the territories that make up the Costa Rican homeland, since attending to the needs of these territories is the end goal, our principle cause as the government,” Solís said.In addition to the Central American flags, Solís also raised the LGBT rainbow flag at Casa Presidencial in May, in what was likely the first time such an event has happened in Latin America. Facebook Comments Related posts:Obama announces members of US delegation who will attend Luis Guillermo Solís inauguration Pope Francis tells bishops that clergy abuse must not be repeated Chile court orders Pablo Neruda’s remains returned to his tomb Costa Rica ‘cautiously’ rejoins SICAlast_img read more

Costa Rica grants first gay commonlaw marriage in Central America

first_imgA Costa Rican judge has granted the first openly gay common-law marriage in Central America, said Francisco Madrigal, political affairs director for the Center for Research and Promotion of Human Rights in Central America (CIPAC).On Tuesday morning, news broke that Gerald Castro and Cristian Zamora, a gay couple in the city of Goicoechea, north of San José, were granted a common-law marriage by the Family Court there. Along with being the first legal recognition of a same-sex relationship in Central America, the decision could set an example for judges elsewhere in the country to recognize gay relationships and even adoption. But both supporters and opponents of the decision expect a forthcoming legal battle over the landmark ruling.Common-law marriage grants all the same benefits of a traditional marriage in Costa Rica, but requires the approval of a judge after the couple has been together – but not necessarily lived together – for at least three years. It guarantees partners the rights to inheritance, to social security and public insurance benefits and to visit the other person in the hospital.Costa Rica does not currently recognize gay marriage but a bill is pending in the Legislative Assembly that would approve civil unions here.Un golazo The judge in Goicoechea granted the common-law marriage in part through an interpretation of an amendment to the Youth Code in July 2013 that its sponsor, then-lawmaker José María Villalta of the Broad Front Party, a former presidential candidate, claimed would legalize gay marriage. The amended code said that common-law marriages should be granted regardless of gender and “without discrimination against their human dignity.” Supporters of the move are calling it a “golazo” (in football terminology, roughly, a stunning goal) by Villalta who slipped the language into the amendment without Evangelical lawmakers – who staunchly oppose gay rights – even noticing.After then-President Laura Chinchilla signed the bill, a flurry of gay couples applied for legal recognition but none were granted until now. There is a catch: The Youth Code only applies to Costa Ricans between the ages of 12 and 35. That could lead to legal challenges, some analysts predict. One argument is that it’s discriminatory, because it doesn’t apply to Costa Ricans of all ages. Others speculate that Costa Rica’s Family Code could supplant the Youth Code. Either way, the judge’s ruling may prompt a case before the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court, or Sala IV.Still, the ruling has brought jubilation to Costa Rica’s LGBT community.“This is a big step forward. This is the first time that the law has been recognized as such,” said Marco Castillo, president of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender advocacy organization Diversity Movement.“I know of nine other cases presented that would have to be approved too,” he said. The cases were in Heredia, San José, Guadalupe, Cañas and Desamparados.Both Castillo and Madrigal said that they were hopeful that the Goicoechea decision would encourage judges elsewhere to recognize same-sex common-law marriages now that the precedent has been set. Family court judges, however, retain autonomy in their power to grant common-law marriages regardless of the sex of the couple so there is no guarantee that other applications elsewhere would be successful.Adoption rightsFrancisco Madrigal told The Tico Times that there is no law banning LGBT individuals from adopting children but gay couples have not been allowed to because their relationship was not recognized by the state. The CIPAC representative said that now that a gay couple have been recognized by the government it could open a new pathway for LGBT families to adopt.“This is an important accomplishment but it gives us a panorama of how much more we need to do,” Madrigal said.The CIPAC representative said that there is still much work to be done in the Legislative Assembly. Advocates were hopeful that the recent decision could bolster the bill to legalize same-sex civil unions in Costa Rica, which would allow gay and lesbian couples to enjoy the benefits of marriage without applying to a judge.Castillo acknowledged that opposition was strong, especially with conservative Evangelical parties. The current gay civil union bill is grinding though the Legal Affairs Commission with 1,300 amendments proposed by former Christian conservative lawmaker Justo Orozco, the daily La Nación reported. Some critics – including at least one lawmaker from the Evangelical National Restoration Party – have threatened to go after the judge on charges of breach of public duty.Nevertheless, the first gay common-law marriage in Central America is one of several LGBT accolades Costa Rica has won in the last several years. Same-sex couples can insure their partners with the Costa Rican Social Security System and visit their partners in the hospital, and Casa Presidencial raised that rainbow flag over the president’s office. The Solís administration also issued an executive order banning discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity in public services.Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the judge had interpreted an amendment to the Family Code in July 2013. It was actually the Youth Code. We regret the error. Facebook Comments Related posts:Costa Rican court upholds gay rights in professional associations Casa Presidencial presents gay common-law marriage bill President of Costa Rica raises LGBT flag over Casa Presidencial Taboo on LGBT blood donation lingers, according to surveylast_img read more

Intense rains in Costa Ricas Caribbean northern regions prompt evacuations

first_imgFlooding caused by heavy rains in Costa Rica’s northern and Caribbean regions has forced emergency agencies to evacuate a total of 580 people, the National Emergency Commission (CNE) reported Tuesday. The evacuees have been placed in nine temporary shelters.The National Meteorological Institute’s (IMN) forecast director Werner Stoltz said Tuesday that tropical waves increased rainy conditions in most of the Limón province as well as in the canton of Sarapiquí, in northern Heredia province, and in Turrialba in Cartago province.President Luis Guillermo Solís is considering upgrading the alert for these regions from Yellow to Red — the most serious in the country’s three level emergency system. CNE maintains a Green or Preventive Alert for the northern region, as the meteorological institute forecasts that heavy rains will remain in these regions for up to 36 hours.Preliminary data from local emergency committees in Limón indicate that flooding is currently blocking all access to eight communities in the canton of Matina, eight in Valle La Estrella and one in Central Limón.Costa Rica’s Water and Sewer Institute reported that flooded rivers have partially damaged aqueducts in Moín and Bananito, two of the most important water sources in Limón. The agency on Tuesday morning outlined an emergency plan for supplying water in trucks if needed.Residents in Sarapiquí are among the most affected and CNE was forced to reopen two shelters there. Currently one of them is hosting 466 people, while another large group is staying at the Catholic church of La Colonia.Route 32 reopensDespite harsh weather conditions on Tuesday morning, no further road closures were necessary, the National Roadway Council (CONAVI) reported. Route 32 to Limón, which was closed Monday by various landslides, reopened at around 7:30 a.m. Tuesday.Currently the only closed road is Route 415 in Turrialba, as high water levels on the Guayabo River are preventing CONAVI’s crews from proceeding with repair works on the bridge.A total of 60 Traffic Police officials are monitoring and regulating passage of all vehicles traveling in the affected areas. Facebook Comments Related posts:Route 32 closed again; officials warn of more closures throughout rainy season Flooding in Costa Rica prompts evacuation of more than 450 people Residents OK to return home after flooding, officials say Travel Alert: Two new landslides block Route 32 to Caribbeanlast_img read more

Global Entry Costa Ricans could soon apply for a fast pass through

first_imgRelated posts:Good news for travelers: Costa Rica’s airport exit tax (finally) will be added to ticket prices Travelers in Costa Rica can pay departure tax at airports for 3 more months Deep Discounts: Southwest Airlines starts daily service to Costa Rica on March 7 ‘Snowpocalypse’ strands air passengers in Costa Rica Costa Rica could soon join the short list of countries whose citizens can apply for customs and immigration pre-approval for low-risk travelers to the United States. If approved, the expedited process could ease travel for the more than 200,000 Costa Ricans who visited the U.S. last year.The Costa Rican Foreign Ministry and the U.S. Embassy in San José said that both countries have begun negotiations that would allow Costa Ricans to apply for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Global Entry program. The Global Entry Trusted Traveler Network claims that its process reduces wait times, expedites entry into the country and keeps travelers out of long processing lines with the use of designated electronic kiosks. Applicants must submit to a background check and in-person interview before enrollment.Costa Ricans have been increasingly traveling to the United States during the last decade. Since 2006, the number of Ticos visits to the U.S. rose 55 percent from 130,702 in 2006 to 202,830 in 2014, according to figures from the U.S. Department of Commerce Office of Travel and Tourism Industries.There are five other countries that have been approved for the expedited customs procedure including the Netherlands, South Korea, Germany, Panama and Mexico. Canadian NEXUS members have Global Entry benefits but are not eligible to join, according to the CBP website. U.S. citizens and permanent residents are eligible for Global Entry.Dennis Whitelaw, president of the Costa Rican-American Chamber of Commerce told The Tico Times in an email that implementing the program could be a boon for travel and business relations between the United States and Costa Rica.“The principle benefit of Global Entry is facilitating the entry and trips for tourists and executives to the United States. For AmCham, we believe that this type of initiative improves the business climate and could create more and better opportunities to develop Costa Rica,” Whitelaw said.Whitelaw said that the implementation of Global Entry for Costa Rican travelers and a coinciding pre-approval process for U.S. travelers to Costa Rica also would be beneficial to new airline routes to the country and ease business travel for U.S. investors here. The United States is Costa Rica’s largest trading partner. Facebook Commentslast_img read more

Mexicos 43 missing students continue to haunt President Peña Nieto – and

first_imgMEXICO CITY – Almost a year since the disappearance of 43 students tainted his administration’s international image, the case has come back to haunt Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto.Peña Nieto’s approval rating began to plunge after his government’s handling of the case was criticized last year, and now an independent probe has raised questions about the credibility of the official investigation.Experts from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights rejected the government’s conclusion that the students were incinerated by a drug gang in a garbage dump as scientifically impossible.The panel also put the army on the spot, calling for an investigation into whether soldiers failed in their duty to protect the young men while corrupt police attacked and detained them in the southern city of Iguala.“It’s another element that adds up to the lack of credibility of the official narrative in many areas,” Héctor Zamitiz Gamboa, political science professor at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, told AFP. Relatives and friends of the 43 missing students of Ayotzinapa, meet with experts from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, who investigated the disappearance. Omar Torres/AFP‘Tunnel of impunity’ Peña Nieto’s popularity had already taken a battering in recent weeks following the prison escape of Mexico’s most powerful drug lord, Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán in July.The president and his wife also have come under scrutiny over the purchase of a mansion from a government contractor, although a government investigation – not surprisingly – said they did nothing wrong.The independent probe into the Iguala case found that some detainees in the case claimed they were tortured and that some evidence, including video footage, was destroyed.The experts urged the government to open a new line of investigation into their own theory: that the students may have been viciously attacked because they inadvertently snatched a bus used to transport drugs.“Mexico needs to resolve the case as soon as possible, not only to solve this crime, but also to prove to the world that there is a light at the end of the tunnel of impunity in Mexico,” El Universal newspaper said in an editorial.While the government said it would investigate the garbage dump again, the director of investigations at the attorney general’s office insisted that at least a large group of students were burned there.“Rather than doing new tests to prove a theory that has already been discarded, the Mexican government should work to restructure the investigation and pursue all of the proposed lines of investigation,” said Maureen Meyer, a Mexico expert at the Washington Office on Latin America, an advocacy group.‘Massive stain’ on governmentThe former attorney general, Jesús Murilla Karám called the official account of the fire last year the “historic truth.”Denise Dresser, a renowned political analyst, wrote in the daily Reforma that the case was a “historic lie” that was fabricated by prosecutors to “turn the page, close the book.”The case never went away and Peña Nieto has faced criticism for only meeting with parents of the victims once and never going to visit them in their impoverished home state of Guerrero.Peña Nieto, however, said on Monday that he was willing to meet with them again “and support them in a permanent way” because he shared their desire to know the truth.A day before, relatives of the students had demanded a meeting with him this week along with the experts of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.The human rights group Amnesty International said the commission’s findings are “a massive stain on the Mexican government’s reputation, which they can only begin to reverse if they find those responsible.”Related: Salman Rushdie, Paul Aster and other prominent writers blast Mexican president over journalist slayings Facebook Comments Related posts:Independent probe doubts 43 Mexico students cremated Mexico’s Peña Nieto pledge to find students falls short for families Mexico police, protesters clash ahead of grim anniversary of 43 missing students Parents of 43 missing students in Mexico wage hunger strikelast_img read more

VIDEO AZs Back To Myself filmed in Costa Rica makes the rounds

first_imgThe video opens with a drone shot over Costa Rica’s pristine Manuel Antonio beach on the Pacific coast and quickly cuts to a stack of Costa Rican colones as AZ’s trademark cigar burns next to a Jacuzzi.Who’d have ever thought after 20 years, I’d still be here. … I shoulda signed to Def Jam in ’97…Looking back, it seems life hasn’t been all that bad for legendary Brooklyn emcee AZ. As we reported back in August, AZ came to Costa Rica to film the video for his new single “Back To Myself” with guest artist SoShy, ahead of the 20-year anniversary release of his forthcoming album “Doe or Die, Vol. 2.”Directed by Alexander Berberich, the “Back To Myself” video cuts between Manuel Antonio, San José’s Parque Morazán and a mansion in the hills. It’s an appropriate setting for the introspective 43-year-old AZ, who in addition to working on “Doe or Die, Vol. 2” has launched an online store and released his new memoir, “Jewels, Gems & Treasures.” From left, Pete Oakley, AZ and Alexander Berberich shoot “Back To Myself” in San José’s Parque Morazán last August. The video debuted earlier this month. Alberto Font/The Tico TimesAZ has promised us he’ll be back in Costa Rica in 2016, hopefully around the time “Doe or Die 2” drops. In the meantime, check out his new online store, and of course, his new video, pura vida-style. Leave us your comments below. Facebook Comments Related posts:New York hip-hop legend AZ gets ‘back to himself’ in new video filmed in Costa Rica A Tribe Called Quest’s Phife Dawg dies at 45 Mathematics tracks the hip-hop ‘revolution’ Radiohead announces 2016 world tour ahead of possible new albumlast_img read more

Untimely death of Costa Rica woman in US leaves family with 70000

first_imgBarbara Calderón, who died in Los Angeles, California, on Jan. 26, in an undated photo with her sons, Santiago and Tobias. (Courtesy Ari Rosales)Update: 12 p.m. Wed., March 2. On Wednesday morning the family of Barbara Calderón, a Costa Rican woman who died while visiting the U.S. in January, learned that it exceeded its fundraising goal for paying off Calderón’s hospital bill. In five days the family raised more than $71,000 to pay the outstanding bill.The family posted its thanks on the gofundme.com page:Our family has been awaken this morning to the beautiful news that we’ve reach our goal, and more! Thank you for the support and the service done to us. For this we will be eternally grateful.Original story continues here:A Costa Rican woman’s family is asking the public for help raising funds to pay for $70,000 in hospital bills after the woman died in a California hospital in January. Three days in, the family has already raised more than half the amount they need.Barbara Calderón was traveling in California in January with her two sons while visiting her sister. She hoped to take a family trip to Universal Studios in Los Angeles. But on the way to the amusement park Calderón complained of chest pains and stopped breathing. Emergency responders reached her on the highway and were able to stabilize her. She was taken to Good Samaritan Hospital’s emergency room. There, hospital staff put her in an induced coma and on life support to try to preserve her brain functions until she could recover.But Calderón never made it out of the coma. Cardiologists said a previously undiagnosed congenital birth defect was the cause of her heart failure. After several days on life support, her husband, who had flown to Los Angeles to be with her and their sons, decided to remove her from life support on Jan. 26. Calderón was 41.Calderón was in the U.S. without health or travel insurance and accumulated roughly $300,000 in health care costs during her six-day admission. The family was able to negotiate the hospital bills down to $70,000. Still unable to pay the bill, the family decided to turn to the crowdsourcing website www.gofundme.com.At this writing the family has raised more than $40,000 from 290 donors.“I’m overwhelmed by the support but I’m not surprised,” Calderón’s sister in California, Ari Rosales, told The Tico Times. “She was an amazing person with lots of friends and family who loved her.”“She was always the one who kept us together as a family, ” Rosales said. “She kept us united.”Rosales said that the family was hopeful that between the gofundme.com campaign and additional fundraising by family and friends in Costa Rica the family would be able to pay back the hospital bills by the end of March.“This is a new role for me, organizing something like this,” Rosales said thinking about Calderón. “I keep thinking that she’d be the best person to do this.”Donations for Calderón’s medical bills can be received until April 26. Facebook Comments Related posts:World Bank: Zika will cost Latin America $3.5 billion in 2016 Costa Rica prosecutors charge 5 members of alleged organ trafficking ring Zika research to be published rapidly and free As AH1N1 death toll rises to 14 in Costa Rica, authorities say it’s too late in season for vaccinationlast_img read more

NicaraguanCosta Rican journalist Lucía Pineda jailed and accused of inciting terrorism in

first_imgRelated posts:As Nicaragua elections approach, banned opposition decries Ortega’s budding dictatorship Nicaraguan resistance group speaks out, refutes Nicaragua pointing finger at Costa Rica for attacks Madelaine Caracas: the fierce Nicaraguan artist who stood up to Daniel Ortega US sanctions Nicaraguan first lady over abuses Lucía Pineda, news director at the now-closed 100% Noticias in Nicaragua has been accused and arrested on terrorism charges against Daniel Ortega’s government.The Nicaraguan government released a statement accusing Pineda, 45, of “provocation, proposing and conspiracy to commit terrorist acts.”The prosecutor’s office said Pineda “incited hate through political discrimination and spread fake and uncorroborated news through television and social media with the intention of generating anxiety and hatred towards Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional (FSLN) party members and sympathizers.”Pineda is also being accused of other crimes, including promoting hate towards the national police and inciting crimes against public and private property. Pineda was given preventative prison at her initial hearing and will face trial on Jan. 25.This Saturday, the owner of 100% Noticias, Miguel Mora, showed up handcuffed in court where he was accused of the same crimes as Pineda. Picture of the facade of “100% Noticias” (100% News) televison station in Managua, taken on December 22, 2018 a day after it was raided and closed by the Nicaraguan Police. Maynor Valenzuela / AFP“This accusation is completely crazy […] something never seen before in the country’s judicial history. This is revenge on critical journalists on behalf of the government,” Sergio Marín, the director of the recently-created Committee of Journalists and Independent Communicators, told the AFP.Marín said he’s afraid these attacks will escalate because the government isn’t tolerating news outlets like 100% Noticias or other publications that are fighting to inform the people.U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen expressed support for Pineda on Twitter, saying that U.S. and its allies should demand that the journalists be liberated and strong measures should be taken against the Nicaraguan government. La represalia de los #OrtegaMurillo contra @LuciaPinedaU y muchos otros periodistas es otro atropello mas al derecho basico de expresion. EEUU y aliados deben exigir libertad d estas personas y usar medidas fuertes para responsabilizar al regimen de estas atrocidades #Nicaragua https://t.co/cqRqawL8jP— Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (@RosLehtinen) December 23, 2018These actions came after the raiding and closure of the digital publication Confidencial and Carlos Fernando Chamorro’s television shows “Esta Semana” and “Esta Noche.” Chamorro has been a strong critic of the government.The newspapers La Prensa and El Nuevo Diario, said that essential supplies like paper and ink have been held up at customs. They’re expecting to run out of these materials in a few weeks. The legal team of the Permanent Human Rights Commission gives a press conference on the cases of Miguel Mora and Lucia Pineda, the owner and director of the 100% Noticias news channel, respectively, in Managua on December 24, 2018. Maynor Valenzuela / AFP100% Noticias transmits 24 hours a day and has been one of the leading outlets covering the crisis in Nicaragua since protests started on April 18.Julio Montenegro, a lawyer for the Permanent Commission of Human Rights (CPDH), warned that a judge issued warrants for a 100% Noticias reporter and owners of two opinion shows based out of 100% Noticias.The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) called on the Nicaraguan government to immediately free the 100% Noticias journalists. In a statement, Natalie Southwick, the program coordinator for Central and South America, also called on the government to “end the desperate campaign to silence important voices.”The Costa Rican consul in Managua, Oscar Camacho, said he would follow and provide assistance to Pineda as they would to any Costa Rican in a vulnerable position.Costa Rica’s Foreign Ministry also released a statement against the arrest and President Carlos Alvarado also issued a statement on Twitter:center_img Como Presidente, y también como periodista, deploro la escalada de represión y la persecución a la prensa que en estos momentos se vive en Nicaragua. pic.twitter.com/uvLjbkVujX— Carlos Alvarado Quesada (@CarlosAlvQ) December 22, 2018Pablo Cuevas, a lawyer for the CPDH, told the AFP that Pineda was taken secretly taken to court 36 hours after she was detained on Friday night, when police raided and took over the 100% Noticias offices.Cuevas added that Pineda’s family members weren’t notified. A CPDH team, which is constantly at the courts to assist detainees, first reported on Pineda’s presence at the courthouse and then became her legal representation.As of Sunday, the courts are now heavily guarded by riot police.Thanks for reading The Tico Times. We strive to keep you up to date about everything that’s been happening in Costa Rica. We work hard to keep our reporting independent and groundbreaking, but we need your help. The Tico Times is partly funded by you and every little bit helps. If all our readers chipped in a buck a month we’d be set for years. Support the Tico Times Facebook Commentslast_img read more

Zimbabwe PMs party No more cash for the army

first_img Sponsored Stories The vital role family plays in society Clean energy: Why it matters for Arizona How Arizona is preparing the leader of the next generation Top Stories Meghan McCain to release audiobook on conservatism, family Anjin is mostly staffed by `’security personnel of all ranks” transferred to its payroll to run its operations, Biti’s party said Wednesday.Diamond mining in eastern Zimbabwe has been the subject of allegations of human rights abuses by the military and police and illegal money laundering by Mugabe loyalists.Biti’s party said it feared diamond receipts were being used to prop up state institutions controlled by Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party. Biti had promised to increase public service salaries with diamond revenue but `’threats will not produce the money as there is no such money in the treasury,” Biti’s party said.(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) Associated PressHARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) – The Zimbabwe prime minister’s party said Wednesday it can’t pay the military until revenues from the nation’s eastern diamond fields, largely sealed off by troops, reach state coffers.Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s party said the finance ministry it controls in the coalition government isn’t receiving money promised from diamond sales.The national treasury “is yet to receive a cent” from the biggest mining company that is staffed by former military and security officials, the Movement for Democratic Change said. The defense ministry has said it needs cash for soldiers who are going hungry and to fund a recruitment drive for an additional 5,000 men. Defense officials loyal to President Robert Mugabe have threatened violence, the MDC said. Defense Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa vowed to send army generals to the finance ministry to force Minister Tendai Biti to meet the military’s demands, it said.Top military commanders have repeatedly refused to salute Tsvangirai. In the latest statement of defiance, a third general last month repeated that the military would not allow politicians who did not fight in the bush war that led to independence in 1980 to take over the reins of power even if they win elections proposed early next year.Human rights groups accuse the military and police of being at the forefront of political violence and intimidation surrounding disputed elections in 2008 that led to the formation of the troubled power-sharing coalition.Biti has said he had been promised $600 million this year in diamond revenues but received only about $30 million between January and March.Last month, he criticized what he called the militarization of diamond mining and said the company Anjin, jointly owned by the state minerals enterprise and China, remitted none of the $75 million in diamonds it was estimated to have sold in the early part of this year. ErrorOK.. ErrorOK Comments   Share   last_img

Philippine police rescue 2 kidnapped Chinese

first_img Bottoms up! Enjoy a cold one for International Beer Day Arizona families, Arizona farms: providing the local community with responsibly produced dairy Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement Top Stories Gamba said Tuesday that police were tailing a person who was about to deliver ransom money when two assailants fired at the officers. One suspect was killed, another escaped and the Chinese were safely recovered after Monday’s shootout.Ransom kidnappings are common in the volatile south, where Muslim rebels are active.(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) 5 things to look for when selecting an ophthalmologist Sponsored Stories center_img MANILA, Philippines (AP) – Police say they have rescued two Chinese businessmen in the restive southern Philippines following a gunfight in which a suspected kidnapper was killed and an officer wounded.Police spokesman Martin Gamba says the two traders from Guangxi and a Filipino woman were snatched Saturday from a house in Agusan del Sur province. The woman was released the following day but kidnappers demanded a ransom for Defeng Li and Liguang Yang. Comments   Share   Mary Coyle ice cream to reopen in central Phoenix Construction begins on Chandler hospital expansion project Early signs of cataracts in your parents and how to helplast_img read more

Mexico resort of Acapulco asks help for heavy debt

first_imgMEXICO CITY (AP) – Mexico’s famous Pacific resort of Acapulco is being inundated, not by rising sea levels, but by a flood of debt.The city’s mayor says the local government has been “collapsed” by a total of $162 million in municipal debt built up by a former mayor. That figure exceeds the beach city’s annual budget of about $150 million.Mayor Luis Walton has asked the federal government to step in to help the city, whose economy was battered after the government moved an annual tourism fair it used to host. Top ways to honor our heroes on Veterans Day Sponsored Stories Walton’s predecessor said Tuesday that the mayor is exaggerating the city’s problems. Former Mayor Manuel Anorve tells local media that he actually reduced the city’s debt.Acapulco has been battered in recent years by a wave of drug-gang violence.(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) Comments   Share   Top holiday drink recipes Mary Coyle ice cream to reopen in central Phoenixcenter_img Bottoms up! Enjoy a cold one for International Beer Day Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement Construction begins on Chandler hospital expansion project Arizona families, Arizona farms: A legacy of tradition embracing animal care and comfort through modern technology Top Stories last_img read more

Official Iran wont unblock Facebook Twitter

first_img Comments   Share   Milstead says best way to stop wrong-way incidents is driving sober 4 sleep positions for men and what they mean President Hasan Rouhani uses Twitter and Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has both a Twitter and a Facebook page. There is a Twitter and Facebook page in the name of Iran’s top leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, which appears to be genuine although Khamenei himself doesn’t tweet.Many Iranians use proxies to access such sites. Last month, the ban was lifted for several hours. Official said a “technical glitch” was the reason users had temporary access. Still, scores of Facebook users posted notes of “Rouhani, Mochakerim,” which is Farsi for “Thank you, Rouhani.”In a statement posted late Monday on his ministry’s website, ic.gov.ir, Vaezi said the issue of blocking or unblocking a site has to be decided by a professional body outside his ministry.“I haven’t made such remarks … Such issues are being studied by a working group outside the ministry of communications and information technology. The public will be informed as soon as a decision is made,” he said.Rouhani has advocated a policy of openness in social issues.(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) Sponsored Stories Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility TEHRAN, Iran (AP) – Iran does not plan to unblock Facebook and Twitter for the general public even if some top government officials use it, the minister of telecommunications and information technology said Monday.State TV quoted Mahmoud Vaezi as saying that the ban on the popular social networking sites will remain in place. Hours later however, he denied making such remarks and said the issue is still under study.center_img New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies 5 treatments for adult scoliosis Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement Top Stories Top holiday drink recipeslast_img read more

Foreign ownership of US Treasury securities drops in April

first_img New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility Comments   Share   Quick workouts for men Check your body, save your life Here’s how to repair and patch damaged drywall Sponsored Stories center_img Milstead says best way to stop wrong-way incidents is driving sober Japan, which had briefly surpassed China, trimmed its holdings by 0.9 percent in April to $1.22 trillion. It remained in second place.Demand for U.S. government debt is expected to remain strong this year.February marked the first time that Japan had been in the top spot since August 2008 when China overtook Japan as the largest foreign owner of Treasury securities.Foreign central banks have been increasing their holdings of U.S. government debt. In April, their holdings rose a modest 0.1 percent to $4.13 trillion. That represents 67 percent of total foreign holdings.U.S. Treasury securities are considered a super-safe investment and are viewed as a safe haven during times of turbulence in other markets.Investors are also looking for U.S. interest rates to begin rising at a gradual pace once the Federal Reserve begins to boost a key short-term interest rate which it has held at a record low near zero since late 2008. Private economists believe the first Fed rate hike will come later this year, probably in September.Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Top Stories WASHINGTON (AP) — Foreign holdings of U.S. Treasury securities fell in April, the first setback since October.Total holdings slipped to $6.14 trillion, down 0.6 percent from the record level of $6.18 trillion in March, the Treasury Department reported Monday.China, the No. 1 foreign holder of U.S. government debt, boosted its holdings a slight 0.2 percent to $1.26 trillion in April following a 3 percent rise in the previous month. The big March advance allowed China to regain the top spot in foreign ownership of Treasury securities after having relinquished the No. 1 ranking in February. How men can have a healthy 2019last_img read more

The next act what happens now in Greeces drama

first_img New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — Greece has entered the twilight zone.Out of money, cut off by its creditors, its banks shut, the struggling country will vote Sunday on whether to accept painful cutbacks in return for desperately needed financing.Between now and then Greece remains suspended between collapse and an uncertain rescue, between membership in the 19-member euro club and the possibility of a humiliating exit. Early signs of cataracts in your parents and how to help Here’s how to repair and patch damaged drywall Top Stories Comments   Share   Elderly people wait to receive their pension outside the National bank of Greece headquarters in Athens, Monday, June 29, 2015. Anxious Greek pensioners swarmed bank branches hoping to be able to receive their pensions Monday and others lined up at ATMs as they gradually began dispensing cash again on the first day of capital controls imposed in a dramatic twist in Greece’s five-year financial saga. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris) A look at what’s ahead:___Q: What is the next deadline for Greece?A: On Tuesday, the main part of Greece’s bailout deal expires. With no agreement to release the last 7.2 billion euros ($8.1 billion) from that deal, Greece is on its own.An EU official said that after the deal expires, it would take weeks for creditors – other eurozone states and the International Monetary Fund – to put a new agreement on track.Tuesday is also the day Greece has to pay a debt of about 1.5 billion euros ($1.7 billion) to the IMF. If Greece doesn’t pay, it will take a while for the IMF to actually declare Greece in default. Credit ratings agencies say arrears to the IMF will not immediately trigger a default crediting rating for Greece.But the IMF won’t give Greece more money unless the arrears are taken care of. That puts Greece in the same bin with fragile, war-torn developing countries in Africa and Latin America.___Q: And after Tuesday?A: Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has called a referendum for Sunday. Greeks will be asked to vote if they support a bailout deal that creditors have proposed that involves budget cutbacks and tax increases in exchange for the remaining loans in the country’s rescue program. Tsipras is urging people to vote “no.”The catch, however, is that by the time of the vote, Greece’s bailout program would have run out. So the Greeks would be voting on an offer that has technically expired.Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the EU Commission, has urged Greeks to vote “yes” to a deal, no matter how it is worded.A “no” vote could mean euro exit is closer for Greece, as the country would have no outside financial aid.Some think a “yes” could restart talks. Joerg Kraemer, chief economist at Commerzbank, says that “should the electorate vote in favor of a compromise, the eurozone members will not be able to ignore that and will resume negotiations.”A “yes” vote, however, could lead to the collapse of the Greek government, as it is unclear it would be able or willing to implement a deal with creditors that it had so vehemently resisted.___Q: Is a deal to save Greece still possible?A: Technically, yes. EU economic official Pierre Moscovici said Monday that a deal was “a few centimeters” away.EU officials and creditors indicate they are still willing to strike a deal. Tsipras, however, has dismissed all their proposals so far as insufficient.center_img ___Q: Will Greece leave the eurozone?A: Many see Greece’s decision to close the banks as a step closer to leaving the euro.The banks’ trouble is a bad sign, because the Greek government would need billions of euros if it has to rescue them without outside support. Until Sunday, the ECB had been keeping the banks afloat by increasing emergency credit as deposits fled.A modern economy needs functioning banks. For Greece that would mean printing a new currency and using it to refloat the banking system.Greece is also having serious trouble paying its day-to-day bills for salaries and pension.If it starts issuing scrip – official IOUs for payment later – that could be the first step in introducing a new currency.___Q: If Greece leaves the euro, will the shared currency fall apart?A: Many economists say no.Since its troubles over high government debt started in 2009 – in Greece – the eurozone has built anti-crisis measures. Those include a pot of money to rescue troubled governments and an offer by the ECB to buy the bonds of governments facing market pressure. The ECB’s current 1.1 trillion euro bond-buying monetary stimulus program has further insulated markets from panic. The ECB says it will take additional steps if necessary to keep Greece’s troubles from spreading. Mesa family survives lightning strike to home How men can have a healthy 2019 Sponsored Stories Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility In the longer term, however, some experts think a Greek departure sets a bad precedent. Investors might think other countries could leave, and would require higher interest to lend those countries money. That would hurt the countries financially, in the longer term, and market pressure could conceivable force them out too if they run into trouble.___Q: Will a Greek exit from the euro hurt my investments, as the Lehman Brothers collapse did in 2008?A: Stock were down globally on Monday, though there was no outright panic.U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew says no one really knows what the fallout would be from Greek exit. Which is why he thinks it should be avoided.Demetrios Efstathiou, economist with ICBC Standard Bank, says it would not be comparable to 2008.“The collapse of Lehman Brothers came as a shock to the markets,” Efstathiou said. “In contrast, Greece’s dire financial position has been discussed to exhaustion, for many years now, and its bonds have been trading at distressed levels for many months.”Take your pick.Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The difference between men and women when it comes to painlast_img read more