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(506) 223-1327          Published Thursday, Jan. 19, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 14            E-mail us    
Jo Stuart
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NEW ROUTE FOR THE TRAIN. A railroad work crew passes through Barrio Otoya with Hospital Calderón Guardia in the background. The men were out Wednesday clearing the track to Santo Domingo de Heredia in
preparation for a new branch line of the nation's commuter train. There has been little traffic on this line for years. It joins the east-west mainline at the Estación al Atlantico on Avenida 3.

U.S. to experiment with online visa interviews
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The U.S. Embassy's process for getting a visa to enter the United States infuriates Ticos.

First the non-U.S. citizen must call a special number (900-1-847-2872) and pay 1,500 colons to make an appointment. Then they must make a $100 deposit at Banco Nacional. If they are eventually denied a U.S. visa, applicants still do not get a refund.

And the appointment may be weeks away. Then they have to present financial and personal legal documents.

Then Costa Ricans find out that the times for appointments are limited, in part because the U.S. Embassy observes both U.S. and Costa Rican holidays, some 20 each year.

Costa Ricans argue that all U.S. citizens have to do to come here is step off the plane with a valid passport.

The situation for Costa Ricans got even worse after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States. Applicants now must have their fingerprint digitized, and that applies even for Costa Ricans who are in transit and only stay at a U.S. airport lounge for a few hours. They also have to pay $100 and wait for an appointment.
To ease some of the frustration and anger, two U.S. officials have announced plans to make the United States a bit more friendly. They are Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff.
“We seek to use new information technology to renew America’s welcome, making it as easy as possible for foreign visitors to travel to the United States and to do so securely and safely,” said Ms. Rice.

The plan includes allowing foreigners to apply for visas online. In an experiment this year  State Department consular officers will conduct required interviews with visa applicants using digital videoconferencing technology to save the applicant a trip to the consulate or embassy.

The two agencies are working to develop the “model airport,” to institute new procedures for smoothly ushering foreign visitors into the country.

Two pilot efforts will begin this year in Houston, Texas, and at Virginia’s Dulles Airport outside Washington, according to the State Department.

A summary of U.S. visa requirements for Costa Ricans is HERE!

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Jan. 19, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 14

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Glencairn says it recovered
4,257 ounces in December

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Glencairn Gold Corp. says it has produced 4,257 ounces of gold since its started commercial production at its Bellavista mine in December.  The mine is located in Miramar near Puntarenas. 

The company secured the final operating permits for the mine in December and though the mine is now producing commercially, the mine is only running at 85 percent capacity, the company said.  The mine is capable of producing 5,000 ounces per month, the company said.

Total gold sales for the company in 2005, including Bellavista and the Limón mine in Nicaragua, were 43,228 ounces, the company said.  Gold sales in 2005 from the company's Limón Mine in Nicaragua were 39,478 ounces even though a labor dispute halted production for 18 days in November, the company said.

Glencairn hopes that the Bellavista mine will more than double the company's annual gold output in 2006 to approximately 102,000 ounces.  The Limón mine has been in continuous production since 1941, the company said.

The Bellavista mine is an open-pit facility where the crushed rock is subjected to chemical treatment above ground to leach out the gold.

Rape suspect got out
early on previous charge

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A man who had been sentenced to a 14-year prison term for rape in 1999 was released early and promptly abused three minors, police allege.

The 47-year-old suspect, identified by the last names Moya Villalobos, was wanted in relation to the sexual abuse of two girls and a boy in Carillo de Poás, officers said.  Police picked him up in Barrio San José in Alajuela as he left his house, they said. 

In addition to Moya's arrest, a special investigation unit of the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública has captured nine wanted persons in the 19 days since the year began, officers said.  Five of them – including Moya — were arrested Tuesday, officers said.

In Heredia, police arrested a 28-year-old man identified by the last names Paéz Cambronero who was wanted on a 1993 charge alleging that he abused a woman, police said.  Paéz was stopped as he left his home, they said.  Police arrested another Heredia man identified by the last names Cortes Cortes who had been sentenced to four years in prison for sexually abusing a minor, officers said. 

Tuesday afternoon, officers arrested a 53-year-old youth soccer coach who had been sentenced to eight years in prison for abusing a minor in Upala along the Nicaraguan border, officers said.  The man, identified by the last names Cruz Cruz was coaching soccer in Tibás, officers said.   

In the last arrest of the day, officers arrested a taxi-driver identified by the last names Vindas as he was smoking marijuana with two youths, 15 and 17 years of age, police said.  Police surprised the three as they were sitting in Vindas' cab in a hidden area of Alajuelita, officers said. 

Bible mixes with bagels
at men's study group

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Escazú Christian Fellowship is holding men's and women's group Bible studies. 

Escazú Christian Fellowship, is an interdenominational one that meets every Sunday at 5 p.m., said Ken MacHarg, pastor.  The congregation is an international one that includes Costa Ricans, MacHarg said. He came here to teach communications at the Evangelical University of the Americas, but when the church lost its pastor, MacHarg said he agreed to take over as interim pastor and eventually agreed to lead the 20-year-old church permanently, he said.  However, he still teaches.  

In addition, the church has a young adults group and Sunday school as well as the men's and women's Bible studies, MacHarg said. 

The women's Bible group meets every Wednesday from 10 a.m. to noon, and approximately 20 members show up.  The men's group meets every Thursday from 7 to 8 a.m. at the Bagelmens in Escazú.  Usually seven or eight people show up but right now they have about four, said MacHarg.

For more information on the church or the men's Bible study, contact MacHarg at 395-9653, 221-7870 or 232-5342.  For information on the women's Bible study, contact Robin Emigh at 289-0298.

Traffic cops targeting
vacation spots, routes

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Policía de Tránsito is paying special attention to seven highways that lead to vacation spots. And they are maintaining watch to keep vehicles and quadracycles off the principal beaches of the country.

Juan Manuel Delgado, director general of the transit police, said his officers are paying particular attention to the highways that lead to the national borders and the stretches between Puente Manolos and Orotina, the one between Liberia and Nicoya and the San José-Limón highway. Also getting stepped up patrols are the route from Cartago to Perez Zeledón and the route from Valle de el General to the Panamá border.

Meanwhile, transit police also have their hands full keeping the traffic flow from the major population centers to the Palmares festival and also watching for drunks coming from that event.

The most popular beaches will be getting attention, too, mainly as officers try to keep cars off the beach and prevent accidents by unlicensed vehicles, Delgado said. The beaches are getting heavy use as Costa Ricans squeeze in vacations until school starts Feb. 7.
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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Jan. 19, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 14

Prices of school supplies vary greatly, ministry finds
By Silleny Sanabria
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Pity the poor parents venturing into the marketplace in search of school supplies for their child.

A study by the Ministerio de Economía, Industria y Comerico showed that prices for the same or similar items can range from a difference of 134 percent for a dozen pencils to a startling 743 percent for a ballpoint pen.

The ministry monitored prices of school necessities Jan. 10 through 12 with nationwide visits to 57 stores.

Researchers checked products like school uniforms, shoes, socks, some notebooks and pens with identical characteristics. Prices varied wildly.  They also compared prices of similar items.

According to Martha Castillo, the vice minister of economy, the survey found:

• a dozen colored pencils made by Faber Castell selling for 470 colons in Libería Estudiantil in Puntarenas and for 1,000 in LIbería Guido in the same city. That's a 134 percent difference.

• A pack of 40 sheets of white construction paper, Kids n Krafts brand, selling for 479 at Más X Menos in La Sabana and for 879 in Libería El Nido in Heredia. That's a difference of 81.6 percent.

• A pair of school shoes suitable for both sexes, size 34, selling for 1,995 colons at Importadora Elizabeth in Limón. They were the McGordon brand. A very similar shoe with the brand Bronco is sold for 8,365 at Almacén Liobet in Alajuela. That's a 320 percent difference in price.

• School pants, size 10, selling for 1,500 at Tienda Internacional in Heredia under the International
School label. They are for sale at Más X Menos in La Sabana for 3,690, a 146 percent difference.

• A pair of blue stockings appropriate for school, size 6 to 10, selling for 297.50 colons at Importadora Elizabeth in San José and for 500 colons at Tienda Calixsa in Ciudad Quesada. This is a difference of 245 percent.

• The biggest difference in price of similar items was between a disposable ballpoint pen, Pen Mate at Libería El Nido in Heredia at 35 colons and a name brand Pilot for 295 at Libería Universal in Zapote.  This is a difference of 743 percent.

“Even with the big difference of prices in the products, they are lower than in 2005. Besides there is more variety of products in the market. That is the reason people should walk and compare for their best choice,” said Vice Minister Castillo.

She also said that in the metropolitan area the prices are higher than in rural zones like Limón and Puntarenas.

The Ministerio de Economía has a free line for the  people who have complaints with products or prices: 800- Consumo.

“People have to know that all products have a guarantee of 30 days," said the vice minister. That's important because the ministry did not compare the produce for durability or quality, only price.

Costa Rican schoolchildren wear uniforms to class, and the clothing is spelled out to the last detail by the school. In addition, students have to obtain a list of supplies from their school and bring each required item on the first day. So the period before school opens is a frantic one for parents as they race around trying to get the best deal on a number of products.  Public schools reopen for the 2006 year Feb. 7.

Cartago prosecutor gets report on fatal mauling of burglar by rottweiler
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The case of the death of an illegal Nicaraguan burglar in the jaws of a rottweiler is in the hands of the fiscal or prosecutor of Cartago.

The Judicial Investigating Organization said Wednesday that its investigators had finished their job and turned their findings over to  Patricia Cordero. the Fiscal Adjunta.

The dog caught the victim, Natividad Canda Mairena, Nov. 10 as he tried to burglarize a mechanical shop  in Lima de Cartago.  A rottweiler guard dog would not let go of his prey even though his owner arrived at the scene and tried every way to drive the dog away including firing shots into the air.

Fuerza Pública officers arrived but did little for some 90 minutes. Finally firemen arrived and used the stream of water from a hose to drive the animal away. The owner declined to destroy the dog, and the
powerful animal still is on guard duty in the shop yard.

The fiscal received autopsy reports Dec. 22 that confirmed what everyone already knew.  Canda, 25, died from severe lacerations and hemorrhaging as a result of the rottweiler's bites.  The fiscal also reported that she had received photos relating to the case Monday, said a spokesperson for the Poder Judicial.

The fiscal must now decide if the evidence shows any kind of crime was committed by those involved.

The dog attack was televised and seen throughout the country. The incident caused a flurry of Nicaraguan jokes that played on the average Costa Rican's concern about illegal Nicaraguan immigration.

The case was received with concern in Nicaragua, and a prosecutor from that country visited the attack scene a few days later.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Jan. 19, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 14

Colombia is labeled the hemisphere's worst human rights problem
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Human Rights Watch says the war-torn South American nation of Colombia presents the worst human rights problems and humanitarian situation in the region.

Wednesday's report says Colombia's non-military armed groups, both rebels and government-aligned paramilitary forces, are responsible for massacres,
kidnappings, torture and extortion. It says Colombia has one of the largest populations of displaced persons in the world.
The report labels Cuba as an anomaly in Latin America, with an undemocratic government that represses nearly all forms of political dissent. It says Cubans are systematically denied basic rights such as freedom of assembly, privacy and due process of law.

In Haiti, the report says mob violence and summary executions have contributed to a situation a United Nations official has called "catastrophic."

In Venezuela, the report blames President Hugo Chávez and supporters for undermining the country's court system and restricting freedom of the press.

Bolivia's Morales wants investigation of destruction of hand-held missiles
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Incoming Bolivian President Evo Morales is pledging to launch an investigation into allegations that military officials worked with the United States to destroy shoulder-fired missiles owned by the Bolivian army.

Mr. Morales Wednesday described the move as treason, saying disarming a country and its armed forces is a crime. He previously filed a legal complaint against outgoing President Eduardo Rodriguez.
President Rodriguez says he authorized the missiles' destruction, but not their transfer to the United States. The president Tuesday fired Army chief General Marcelo Antezana over the matter and Defense Minister Gonzalo Mendez resigned.

Washington has previously denied charges of a secret, U.S.-led operation to remove the missiles from Bolivia. The United States said Wednesday it complied in good faith with a Bolivian government request for assistance in disposing of outdated arms.

Ex-Salvadoran congressman gets 29 years in U.S. drug trafficking case
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Former Salvadoran congressman William Eliu Martínez was sentenced Wednesday to 29 years in prison by U.S. District Court Judge Michael M. Mihm in the District of Columbia.

This sentencing followed Martínez's trial on narcotics trafficking charges in June 2005.  The two-count indictment charging Martínez was returned in October 2003.  He was arrested by Drug Enforcement Administration agents in Panamá in early November 2003. 

The jury in the District of Columbia convicted Martínez June 27 after a two-and-a-half week-long trial.
Department of Justice prosecutors, working with DEA agents in the United States and overseas, attributed tons of cocaine shipments into the United States to the Otto Herrera Drug Trafficking Organization, the trafficking group for which Martínez ran operations in El Salvador, beginning in 1998.

Martínez, a former alternate congressman in El Salvador, purchased boats, rented properties, and recruited workers used to transport large amounts of cocaine through El Salvador into Guatemala and to the United States.  Evidence at his trial showed that he sometimes used his office to further the organization's trafficking activities.

Investigators and prosecutors on this case said they enjoyed strong support from the government of El Salvador. 

Jo Stuart
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