Suspect was pretty obvious with statue under his arm

Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública photo The purloined statue.

A man with the last names of Portuguez Chávez should be real happy that Costa Rica does not have a death sentence. As it is, his future most likely will be assured for some time.

He is the main suspect in the theft of a statue of the Virgin Mary from the Catholic church in Mora. Fuerza Pública officers detained him as he approached the center of town Monday afternoon carrying the statue, which is correctly called the Virgen Santísima de la Asunción.

Not only is the statute an icon of the local Catholic community and valued at about 200,000 colons, or about $400, it also is an antique.

If Portuguez is guilty he might consider another line of work. Pawn shops are reluctant to accept historic statues of the Virgin Mary. Other church thefts have involved bells that were cut down for scrap and brass objects that were not clearly liturgical.

An exception is the still missing Christ Child that someone swiped out of the Nativity scene at the Teatro Nacional in December 2005. The 80-year-old wooden statue had at least historical value and has never turned up.

Officials said they thought the theft was a political statement.

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