A.M. Costa Rica

Your daily English-language news source
Monday through Friday

Place your free classified ad

Click Here
These stories were published Thursday, Feb. 14, 2002
Jo Stuart
About us
Today is Valentine's Day the world over
(And you still have time to get to the store and the flower shop)
U.S. Coast Guard photo
These two and a companion tried to smuggle 3,572 pounds of marijuana into the United States in a 30-foot go-fast boat. 

The U.S. Coast Guard took this photo off the Mexican coast and picked up 562 bales of dumped marijuana.

After a seven-hour chase, the men headed back south, said Coast Guardsmen aboard the Cutter Steadfast.

RACSA moves against Internet spam source
By James Brodell
editor of A.M. Costa Rica

The Costa Rican Internet monopoly closed down an e-mail provider because the location was the source of mountains of unsolicited electronic messages to all over the world.

The owner got his service back on line about midday Wednesday after throwing out a customer he said used his computer server for more than four months without his knowledge.

Meanwhile, A.M. Costa Rica learned that some messages coming from Costa Rica were chain letters that urged recipients to send money to an address that appears to be a Miami dropbox for Costa Rica.

Louis Kreuzahler, who identified himself as the owner of Cyberspacereality.Net, said he had 97 clients stuck high and dry when he was cut off without notice by Radiográfica Costarricense, S.A. on Friday. He complained he did not get any notice from RACSA and that he has lost 27 clients who moved their operations to other Internet providers.

"Not one of them had anything to do with spam," he said referring to the computer term for unsolicited e-mail messages.

He also said that because his client took control of his computer functions, without his knowledge or permission, Kreuzahler did not learn of the many complaints that had flooded in from webmasters and Internet service providers all over the world. The customer also deleted logs that showed how many messages were being sent, he said.

RACSA has been under strong pressure by the world Internet community to eliminate customers who daily send out thousands of messages offering get-rich-quick schemes or other forms of junk mail. RACSA’s customer contract prohibits such use.

Kreuzahler said that the offending customer, identified by the Internet address www.FreeWebHost4U.com, paid in cash and that a representative had little personal contact. Kreuzahler said that he had filed a denuncia with the Judicial Investigating Organization because of the long-running theft of computer services. The OIJ could not confirm the existence of the denuncia Wednesday.

Kreuzahler said his service is located in Paso Ancho and that he was spending the day trying to get his Internet provider service back on line. A web page for FreeWebHost4U was not in service Wednesday.

An electronic check of the ownership shows that the owner of the FreeWebHost4U domain name is Corporación de Servidores, with an apartado address in Santa Ana and that the administrative contact is Jorge Calderon at Corporación de Servidores, Calle 23, San José.

The chain letters seem to have originated 

from another RACSA customer and some went to Internet news groups that are set up slightly different than simple e-mails. One offered "Let's make $50,000 together!!!" The idea was the same sort of illegal chain letter that U.S. postal officials have been fighting for decades.

The author, in this case identified as Leonardo Murillo, asks recipients to mail single U.S. dollar bills for each of five addresses. Then the recipient resends the e-mail to 250 more news groups after removing the top name placing his name in the fifth and last spot, according to the instructions.

E-mail chain letters do not seem to be illegal, but because the instructions tell the recipient to place the dollar bills in the mails, U.S. federal law is triggered and the operation becomes criminal.

The person who identified himself as Murillo told recipients to send their dollar bills to him at L. Murillo, Suite #7043 - 3000 N.W. 79 Ave., Miami, FL 33122, which appears to be the address of a mail forwarding service. However, A.M. Costa Rica checked with the major mail forwarding companies but was unable to verify the address.

Actually "Murillo’ could be anywhere because a forwarding service will send mail anywhere it is told.

Another e-mail offer that at least passed through RACSA offered insurance coverage for lawyers. Insurance in Costa Rica is restricted to the Instituto Nacional de Seguros, the national insurance monopoly.

RACSA e-mail service has been cut off by a number of world Internet providers because of the load of unsolicited messages that are generated here. The action against CyberspaceReality.com is the first concrete step reported for months, although RACSA is believed to have taken some steps after its messages were blocked by most major Internet providers last Sept. 27.

A number of visitors from the U.S. and elsewhere have complained that they cannot get their RACSA e-mails to go through because the messages are blocked as suspected spam all over the world. Because RACSA maintains a monopoly on Internet service here, virtually all messages move through the wires of that company.

Kreuzahler, himself, is identified as a long-time spammer in complaints freely available and posted on the Internet. Some complaints date back to June. However, he said Wednesday that he is simply a victim, saying: "I can tell you that we are a serious company and not want to be involved with this spam."

"We are aware about the postings and we have evidence that the spamgangs have abused our router and even intercepted our private email accounts," he said, adding that his firm has hired an investigator to follow up.

Subscribe to
our daily 
Check out
Check our
our back
Send us

news story
Visit our
Visit our 
Visit our
real estate
Buy my bar, please!
This place is a gold mine, but I'm an artist who got this place by accident. I want to draw, but not beer.
Contact, me, Keith,
and let's talk 

Your chance to
own a piece of the
Zona Rosada!

(506) 256-9085

Festival in Manuel Antonio
Costa Rican culture 
Feb. 24- 28!

at Hotel California
(506) 777-1234

Try Costa Rican wine and
great cigars amid great art

All events open to the public

For information CLICK HERE
Contact us toll free at: 800-365-2342
Or E-MAIL us

A.M. Costa Rica photo
Entrance to the Key Largo gives a hint of its glory days when it was first a classy home and later a top casino. Now it is a bar.

Del Rey Hotel
buys big chunk

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Del Rey Hotel has purchased about 6,000 square meters of land immediately west of its downtown location, but there are still no firm plans for the land’s use.

That is according to Gregory M. Ruzicka, one of the owners of the hotel and casino. The property involved in the transaction is one of the few properties of its size under private ownership in the center of San José.

Included in the purchase is all the land in the block bounded by Avenida 1 on the south, Avenida 3 on the north, Calle 9 on the east and Calle 7 on the west with the exception of a parking lot already owned by the hotel and the land under the Costa Rica Morazan Hotel and Casino Tropical.

The purchase includes New York Bar and an empty former Chinese restaurant on Avenida 1, the Happy Days bar and a storefront on Calle 7, the Key Largo, a bar and former casino, and the former home of members of the Gurdián Family on the northeast corner of the block. The land was sold by the family for a price Ruzicka did not disclose.

Ruzicka said that the hotel would continue to work with the operators of the existing businesses and that some had continuing rental agreements that carried over with the sale.

"We would like to do something that’s good for the neighborhood and make it safer for tourists," said Ruzicka. He said the hotel owners were willing to listen to development ideas.

The sprawling Key Largo, now a down-at-the-heels bar, was leased by David Brewer, a retired Los Angeles policeman who also owned the Gran Hotel Costa Rica and a string of other properties. He died last November after an operation in the United States. The lease for the Key Largo is now part of his estate.

A.M. Costa Rica photo
Former Gurdián Family home has Del Rey hotel as a backdrop.

Democrats Abroad event
a Central American first

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

When Democrats Abroad meet here in March to plan strategy for the U.S. congressional elections, the session will be the first time the group had a meeting in Central America.

Democrats Abroad is the official Democratic Party organization for Americans living overseas.  The group’s leadership will convene in San Jose 
from Friday, March 15, to Sunday, March 17, at the Aurola Holiday Inn.

Activities will include strategy sessions for mobilizing the nearly six million Americans who live overseas to vote in the congressional midterm elections. Nearly 40 Democratic activists from around the world are expected to attend, along with American Democrats living in Costa Rica. 

The group also will meet with several American and Costa Rican leaders, including former presidential candidate Ottón Solís of Partido Acción Ciudadana, who will address the group at a luncheon Saturday, March 16.

"We are delighted to be holding our Spring meeting in Costa Rica," said Joe Smallhoover, international chairman. "As the 2000 election and Florida recount showed, votes from overseas play a critical role in determining the outcome of U.S. elections. This November’s election will decide which party controls the U.S. House and Senate, and the votes of Americans abroad can make the difference. This meeting is the launching pad of our effort to maximize the Democratic vote from overseas." 

 Jerry Ledin, the chairman of Democrats Abroad Costa Rica, said: "We are looking forward to hosting our fellow Democrats from around the world and showing them the best of Costa Rican beauty and culture. We have a very active, enthusiastic committee in Costa Rica, and we are anxious to help lay the groundwork for a big Democratic victory in this November’s U.S. elections."

Democrats Abroad has 30 chapters around the world, with over 10,000 active members. It is a constituent part of the U.S. Democratic National Committee. It registers thousands of Americans abroad to vote, informs Americans overseas about Democratic candidates and issues, and contributes to Democratic candidates.

Republicans have a similar organization.

Two Grecia men held
in string of robberies

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two men in San Juan de Grecia were nabbed in coordinated raids by the Judicial Investigating Organization agents about 6 a.m. Wendesday. They are suspects in at least eight robberies in Grecia. 

Found in the raids were merchandise that tie the men to the crimes, said police, listing Nintendo games, shampoo, cigarettes and other items. In addition, police said they were investigating reports the men made purchases with a false 5,000 colon note (worth $14.50).

Two men now face
fraud check charges

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Agents in Grecia arrested two men over the weekend who are suspected of robbing merchants by using stolen checks. The Judicial Investigating Organization said.  The men would make bank deposits in favor of a company, perhaps one that sold construction materials. Then they would pick up the materials on the strength of the bank receipt.

However, the men used stolen checks sometimes drawn on closed accounts to make the deposits, said investigators. Later the bank would notify the merchant that the deposit was no good.

The men were caught when they went to pick up some 1.5 million ($4,350) colons worth of construction materials they had paid for with a check and a bank deposit.

Embassy to check out
reception attendees

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Those who attend an American Colony Committee reception for the new U.S. ambassador will be screened beforehand by embassy security personnel.

When the Feb. 21 reception at the Costa Rica Marriott was announced, organizers said that no tickets would be sold at the door. Some people who purchased tickets said they had to provide the name, telephone number and address.

An embassy spokesman confirmed the security procedure but dismissed it as standard. However, he could not give specific guidelines as to who would be permitted to attend and who would not. 

Such procedures are not unusual in gatherings where the president of the United States will be in proximity to attendees. Until recently lesser public officials were not afforded such security. At functions where the guests are invited the invitation list usually is screened at most embassies both for security and intelligence purposes.

Suspected terrorist
blows himself up

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

SANAA, Yemen - A suspected al-Qaida member has blown himself up here after being cornered by Yemeni security forces.

The man identified as 25-year-old Samir al-Hada was being chased by security forces in a suburb of this capital late Wednesday when a hand grenade in his hand blew up, killing him instantly. There were no other casualties. Police are quoted as saying the suspect had recently visited Afghanistan to receive terrorist training and was involved in unspecified terrorist attacks.

Valentine’s Day treat

A reader has this suggestion for a St. Valentine’s Day evening out: Restaurante Solera is having a Surf & Turf Special for 6,000 colones ($17.40). Diners get a choice of soup or salad and dessert.  Reservations are available at 235-0034.  The restaurant is in Los Yoses, 500 meters south from Spoon and 100 meters east.

U.S. tourist leaps
off Tibás bridge

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A U.S. tourist holding a small suitcase in his hand leaped off a bridge in Tibás to his death Tuesday night, said investigators.

There was no possibility of foul play because passersby saw the man leap. He was identified as Matthew Prescott Poczatack, about 45, said the Judicial Investigating Organization. They called the death a suicide.

The bridge was not far from Saprissa Stadium where major soccer teams play. The time was about 9:37 p.m, said police. The distance the man fell was 80 meters or about 260 feet.

Police believe that Poczatack, who was from California and entered Costa Rica Sept. 29, may have lived in Santo Domingo de Heredia. They said he had a tattoo on his left shoulder that said "Dogo Dog" and one on the right forearm of a red and yellow lightning bolt.

Death was attributed to multiple fractures.

This was the second suicide from a bridge in less than a week. Maruricio Pacheco Romero, 31, of Tres Ríos jumped from a bridge on the way to Santo Domingo de Heredia last Thursday night, said investigators. Curiously he called friends on his cellular telephone before he did so and even called the police emergency number 911 to tell them to come look for his body.

Unnamed skating judge
accused of wrongdoing

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah - A judge in Monday's controversial Olympic pairs skating competition has been accused of wrongdoing by the official who reviewed the event with the judges afterward. 

The president of the International Skating Union says American Ronald Pfenning, the "referee" who led the review panel, made the charge about an as yet unnamed judge, after the gold medal was presented to Russian skaters Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze over Canadians Jamie Sale and David Pelletier. That decision drew immediate howls of protest from the crowd and expressions of shock from television commentators who thought the Canadians were far more technically correct. 

The International Skating Union president, Ottavio Cinquanta, did not reveal the nature of the allegations against the judge, but said he has received a denial. Earlier, Cinquanta said the skating union was doing an "internal assessment" to see if judges at the event followed proper rules and procedures, but he said their ruling would not be overturned. 

The International Olympic Committee has told the skating union to settle the dispute over the decision quickly. The skating union says it will review the written charge against the judge next Monday. 

In the latest Olympic results from Salt Lake City, Germany has won a medal sweep in the women's luge competition, with Sylke Otto taking the gold, Barbara Niedernhuber winning the silver, and Sikle Kraushaar winning the bronze. 

Earlier, Norway's Kjetil Andrew Aamodt won the gold medal in men's alpine combined skiing. Bode Miller of the United States took the silver and Benjamine Raich of Austria won the bronze. 

Kati Wilhelm of Germany won gold in the women's 7.5 kilometer sprint biathalon. Fellow German Uschi Disl took the silver, and Magdalena Forsberg of Sweden won the bronze. In other competitions Wednesday, two athletes won their second gold medals at these Winter Olympics. Switzerland's Simon Amman won the individual K-120 ski jump and defending champion Ole Einar Bjoerndalen of Norway took the 10 kilometer sprint biathlon.

Powell defends plan
to pay pipe defense

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell is defending a $98 million U.S. plan to help Colombia protect a key pipeline that connects oil wells run by a U.S. company to a Caribbean port. 

Powell says Colombian rebel attacks shut down the Cano-Limon-Covenas pipeline for 240 days last year, depriving the United States of a strategic petroleum source. He says the closure also caused serious environmental damage, and cost Colombia a significant source of revenue. Speaking before a House subcommittee, Powell said Wednesday the proposed U.S. funds would pay for training and equipping two brigades of Colombian troops to protect the 700-kilometer-long (420-mile) line in eastern Colombia. 

Powell says keeping the pipeline open would give Colombia more money to be used for counter-narcotics efforts. 

Some lawmakers have criticized the plan, saying it could eventually lead to U.S. involvement in the 38-year civil war in Colombia. Powell says the Bush Administration, however, has no intention of using U.S. forces to defend the pipeline. He does say the proposal is a "passive" change in U.S. policy. The plan is part of the administration's $25 billion foreign affairs budget for the fiscal year 2003. 

The secretary also says Congress should be able to see results this year from U.S. aid to Colombia. The $1.3 billion package is largely devoted to counter-narcotics military aid and improving human rights.  Colombia's conflict involves leftist rebels, government forces and right-wing paramilitary groups.

Bolivar takes fall
of nearly 21 per cent

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services 

CARACAS, Venezuela — The national currency, the bolivar, lost more than a fifth of its value Tuesday, its first day of free trading after the government abandoned a five-year-old policy that kept the currency within a fixed range. 

The bolivar was quoted anywhere between 970 and 1,002 to the U.S. dollar, which amounts to a devaluation of as much as 21 percent from its previous value. Analysts expect the free-fall to continue until the market adjusts to the new situation. 

Meanwhile, the International Monetary Fund said letting the bolivar float was a step in the right direction, adding that it is prepared to help Venezuela if it becomes necessary. The devaluation is expected to raise Venezuela's exports and give a boost to government revenues, which have been sliding. 

The decision to float the bolivar came after large amounts of foreign capital were pulled out of the country, draining the central bank of its foreign reserves and threatening its ability to keep the currency within the fixed range. 

About $2 billion has left Venezuela since the beginning of the year, $600 million in the past three days alone, as increasing opposition to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has prompted investors to seek safer assets. 

The fall in the world price of oil, which accounts for about 80 percent of Venezuela's export revenues, has also raised investors' fears about the country's prospects. 

Chavez has been under pressure since late last year due to widespread opposition against his new laws, which are believed to undermine private property rights. Last week, two high-ranked militaries called for his resignation, saying his administration threatens democracy in the country. The bolivar is the second Latin American currency to be floated this week. Monday, Argentina ended a decade-old policy that pegged its peso to the U.S. dollar. 

Chretien in Moscow
on European swing

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services 

MOSCOW, Russia — Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien, who is leading a large Canadian trade delegation to Russia and Germany, has arrived here for talks with President Vladimir Putin and other officials. 

Chretien's arrival in the Russian capital was delayed when the illness of a security officer on the plane forced the pilot to make an unscheduled landing in Stockholm, where the officer was hospitalized. 

The Canadian leader's five-day visit to Russia is aimed at strengthening economic and trade ties. 

The talks are expected to focus on Russia's efforts to gain admission to the World Trade Organization and the upcoming G-8 summit of the world's leading industrialized nations in Alberta, Canada in June. 

Russia's ITAR-TASS news agency says Chretien is also likely to discuss disarmament and weapons non-proliferation issues with his Russian hosts. 

The Canadian leader is also scheduled to meet with Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov and visit the cosmonaut training center in Star City outside the Russian capital, before heading to Germany Sunday.

Mexico’s phone firm
gets U.S. complaint

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services 

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Mexico has failed to dismantle barriers in its telephone market that penalize American and Mexican long-distance callers trying to maintain cross-border ties, the United States says. 

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick said Wednesday Washington is moving ahead with a World Trade Organization case in the dispute over access to Mexico's $12-billion telecommunications market. 

The United States alleges that Mexico places unfair restrictions on foreign companies trying to compete in a market dominated by a single company, Telmex. 

The issue was first raised in late 2000, but the Bush Administration decided to hold off to give the new government of Mexican President Vicente Fox time to address the U.S. concerns. 

It says U.S. telecommunications carriers are forced to pay inflated charges, passed on to customers, to complete long-distance calls into Mexico. 

In his statement Wednesday, Mr. Zoellick said the request for a WTO dispute settlement panel is being revived because efforts to resolve the issue bilaterally had failed. He says Mexico has not opened its cross-border telecommunications market as required under WTO rules. 

Bus crash hurts 14

Some 14 persons suffered injuries, one serously, when a bus collided with the rear of a parked bus in Moravia during rush hour Wednesday.

What we published this week: Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Earlier
The contents of this web site are copyrighted by Consultantes Río Colorado 2001 and 2002 and may not be reproduced anywhere without permission. Abstracts and fair use are permitted.