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(506) 2223-1327               Published Monday, Feb. 15, 2010, in Vol. 10, No. 31      E-mail us
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Chat sites and text messages: A dangerous combo
By Garland M. Baker
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The internet is as wonderful as it is evil.  The dark side is where predators lurk waiting for the unsuspecting innocent to fall into their traps.  These creeps lie in wait to menace adults and children alike.  The internet, cellular telephones and text messaging can work together to steal, maim and even kill.

Many expats have come to Costa Rica with families including their children. Others have started families here.  In a modern family, having several computers in the household is not uncommon.  Giving children cell phones at a very early age is also normal practice.  They are great little devices to keep tabs on kids.

The Internet extended the dating services of the past century into a whole new world, social networking.  These networks have grown geometrically on the web.  Adults and kids use them to find new friends and relationships.  Some adults find their mates nowadays using the tools of cyberspace.

Most people hide behind avatars —  an icon or figure used as a personification of the computer operator — and use false information when using social networks.  This is good practice but does not curb the danger and can even exacerbate it. 

Here is a wakeup call to expats with children in Costa Rica.  Internet predators are out to get them.  They know all the tricks.  Expats here are usually of retirement age because they came to retire in this country.  Many of them did not count on having a new family in this country, but it happened.  Because they are of retirement age, many are not familiar with the Internet or text messaging on cell phones so they do not understand how much danger their kids are facing every day.

This is the scenario.  It usually — but not always — starts with a social network on the Internet.

Children take pictures of themselves using webcams on the computers in the house.  Webcams are little cameras that are attached to desktop computers but are usually incorporated into portables.  Kids open an account — lying through the form questionnaires about their age —  on Hi5, MSN, Facebook, or one of the other social networks.  Here they post the pictures they took in minutes and add their e-mail address.
Kids all over the world do the same thing.

However, these days children are taking very seductive inappropriate pictures of themselves and using them.  High school girls and even grade school children have contests to see who can make the "best" sexy pictures.  Sure other kids and classmates write to them, but so do the perverts.  The Internet scum bags of the world.  Adults usually do not know who they are really communicating with on social networks so how do adults expect their children to know?

The next step in the predators plan is to get as much information as they can from their victims, including phone numbers — especially cellular phone numbers — addresses, workplace information and in the case of children the schools they attend.  These potential molesters usually make up a story to get to meet a child or just wait in hiding around a school to snatch them.

What adults and children do not realize is these Internet nut cases are sick people.  They thrive on
Computer girl
A fine target for a pedophile

the bond they make with their victim.  When the bond is broken — for example a parent discovers the problem — the person in some cases will physically hunt down their prey using the information provided to them over the internet or telephone.

People are not always on or near a computer, but they are usually stuck to their cellular telephone.  This is true for children too.  Text messaging from cellular telephones is a social network of its own.
If a predator has both avenues of communication to a victim, they have many options to lure kids.

Expats with children or a young wife in Costa Rica need to protect them from these hazards as much as they can.  Here are some tips to protect young people, based on extensive research:

• Talk to loved ones about predators. Tell them that they cannot trust people who they do not know in real life.

• Have the passwords to your children's social networking sites and e-mail accounts as much as this is possible.  Sometimes this is very difficult because youngsters are a lot more savvy about the Internet then most retired expats.  Some networks like Microsoft's offer parental controls.

• Give your children a cellular phone with a number that can be looked at using the phone company's password system.  This system is called "ICE clave."  Periodically, check the calls and message lists.

• Keep computers in an area of the house where there is adult supervision all the time.  If the computer has a webcam, regulate its use carefully.

• Tell your loved ones never to give out any information to anyone they do not know.  Never let them meet anyone they have met online.

• Sit down with your loved ones and get a tour of their social networking sites.  If they balk, insist.

• Being retired or up in years is no reason not to know more about the Internet and especially how text messaging works.  Get pointers or training from a friend.

This expat is a computer nerd with 30 years experience and a registered Microsoft Partner with all the latest systems and technologies.  One of these wackos got through the extensive precautions setup to protect his kids from the evils of the Internet, and that is the reason for this article. 


Garland M. Baker is a 38-year resident and naturalized citizen of Costa Rica who provides multidisciplinary professional services to the international community. Reach him at info@crexpertise.com. Baker has undertaken the research leading to these series of articles in conjunction with A.M. Costa Rica. Find the collection at http://crexpertise.info, a complimentary reprint is available at the end of each article. Copyright 2010, use without permission prohibited.



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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Feb. 15, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 31

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Our readers' opinion
There was no relationship
and no romance either

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I am finding it hard to use the term "editor" when someone has to be responsible for this travesty.

I am referring to the story in today's edition which calls a "relationship" between a child of 12 and an 71 year old man a "romance". (The national television news, for your information, stated that she was 11.)  I have objected silently many times to things that were written, but this is outrageous and very offensive and I will not remain silent.  Do you have a relative who may be 11 or 12?  Would you ever refer to her/him as being part of a "couple", another offensive term used today in your edition?

In a country well-known for dealing with the violent and tragic sexual abuse of children, I find this "contribution" on your part reprehensible.
M. C. Master
Grecia

Embassy addresses critique
of recovery discrimination

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I am writing in response to the incorrect allegations that appeared in the Feb. 11 edition of A.M. Costa Rica regarding the 2010 Social Security benefits COLA and the one time Economic Recovery Payment.

First, President Obama never promised $250 USD in lieu of a COLA for 2010. Under the Social Security Act, Social Security benefits increase automatically each year if there is an increase in the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) from the third quarter of the last year to the corresponding period of the current year.  There was no increase in the CPI-W from the third quarter of 2008 to the third quarter of 2009.  Therefore, there was not an automatic increase in Social Security benefits for December 2009.

Second, it should be understood that the primary and explicit purpose of the $250 Economic Recovery Payment, as approved by the President and Congress, was/is to assist with the economic recovery of the U.S. economy.   As such, the legislation clearly and understandably stipulates that in order to receive an Economic Recovery payment, the beneficiary's address of record must be in one of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, or the Northern Mariana Islands.  Additional information is available on www.socialsecurity.gov/cola.

I hope this information helps to clarify the record regarding the purpose and application of 2009 Economic Recovery Payment.

Jane McEntee
U.S. Embassy,
San Jose/Federal Benefits

EDITOR'S NOTE: Gene Mc Donald of Escazú raised the issue in a letter to the editor. There was a $250 economic recovery payment in 2009, but the current proposal, which would cost $13 billion, has not yet cleared Congress. The 2009 payment contained a stipulation prohibiting sending checks to people outside the country. There is, of course, still time to contact congressmen and senators about how unfair that rule is.


Pope should prescribe
condoms for Catholics

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

It is a well known and documented fact, that throughout history leaders of nation and organizations have committed crimes of the gravest kind against the human race. The names of just a handful of these leaders/people are “Hitler, Eugene de Kock, (colonel of the South African Police) Saddam Hussein, Idi Amin Dada, Osama bin Laden. The list of others would fill pages. The crimes they and others committed against humans, humanity and mankind in general would also fill pages and range from A to Z.

“The press,” other nations, leaders of organizations, leaders of countries, has done everything, from going to war against these people and countries, to trials, conviction and executions of these people, and to at the least, the printing of the accounts of their actions against humanity.

My question is why do we not do the same for the inactions? If someone has the power to save thousands of lives, to save thousands of people from disease and suffering, to prevent thousands of unnecessary abortions, to save billions of dollars in unneeded medical expenses, (money that could be used to prevent, or cure, other diseases) simply by saying five words, isn’t their inaction just as grave are they not just as guilty? Are they not just as accountable and guilty as some of the above mentioned names? Don’t they deserve the same outrage of the press, the public, and our leaders? Five words, only five words, The Pope only has to say: “IT’S OK TO USE CONDOMS”. 

Note: Despite being a large Catholic country: according to the “Report on the country response to commitment undertaken in UNGASS”  (HERE!)

The social security institution and some NGOs are distributing condoms to “most-at-risk” populations and to the population in general despite the lack of a social policy on the distribution of condoms and the lack of large scale awareness campaigns on the use and importance of a condom to prevent disease: page 14 and 15 of the report. Good for you Costa Rica!!!!! 

Joseph G. Nienaber
San Rafael de Heredia
 
                             
Life jacket found at sea

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Coast guardsmen report that they have found a life jacket that they believe belonged to a fisherman who disappeared in the Pacific last week south of the Osa Peninsula. One man died and two men survived, but a fourth man said he would swim to shore when their fishing boat became submerged. He is the one who is missing. The life jacket was turned over to investigators, said the Servicio Nacional de Guardacostas.

                 
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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Feb. 15, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 31

    
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Enjoy Incredible Beach Sunsets and  Sunrises. With the Pacific Ocean and the awesome mountains.
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New name pops up among drug cartels using Costa Rica
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Ricans who follow the drug mafia have a new name to put on the scorecard. The Juárez Cartel has been linked to 780 kilos of cocaine found in a storage unit near Miramar on the Pacific coast. That's 1,716 pounds.

The cartel is believed led by Vicente Carrillo Fuentes, on whose head the U.S. government has placed a $5 million reward.

A war for control of the drug routes passing through Juárez into the United States caused hundreds of deaths and caused Mexican President Felipe Calderón to send thousands of army troops into the city. Juárez is just south of El Paso, Texas, on the south side of the Río Grande.

The discovery of the cocaine and the arrest of two Mexican men should not come as a surprise to law enforcement officials. Costa Rica has long been known as a storage location for cocaine moving toward the United States. Still Janina del Veccho, the security minster, and Eric Lacayo, director general of the Fuerza Pública will hold a press conference today to expound on the problem.

The likely scenario is that the Juárez Cartel has been using Costa Rica as a link in the cocaine trail for years.

The security ministry said that neighbors tipped off the police because there was a lot of nighttime and early morning activity at the storage unit. Detained was a man, 33, identified by the last names of Garcia Padilla, and a
drug stash
Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía
y Seguridad Pública photo

Cocaine stash was stacked neatly

43-year-old man with the last names of Arroyo Lavariega.

There also is the possibility that the tip came from members of the Sinaloa Cartel that has been at war with the Juárez Cartel since at least 1998.

Drug smugglers use land, water and air routes to bring the drugs north.

Ms. del Vecchio was reported in a ministry press release saying that the Juárez Cartel has generated an investigation here for the first time.

The Juárez Cartel is particularly violent, even for a drug family. It is known as La Linea in Juárez. One of its leaders was so violent that he was known as la Bestia, the beast.


Two visiting U.S. senators will meet with Arias Friday
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two U.S. senators are visiting Costa Rica this week.

They are Christopher Dodd, a Connecticut Democrat, and Bob Corker, a conservative Republican from Tennessee. The visits were announced by Casa Presidencial because the pair have a meeting with President Óscar Arias Sánchez Friday. There has been no word about what topics will be discussed at the meeting, but both Dodd and Corker are allies in seeking financial reforms in the United States.
Dodd is the younger brother of Tom Dodd, who was U.S. ambassador to Costa Rica in the Bill Clinton administration. Dodd also is the son of a U.S. senator. Dodd has announced that he will not seek reelection in November. Corker, a self-made millionaire, is the former mayor of Chattanooga and has a special interest in the country of Haiti where he traveled as a young man.

Certainly Arias and the two senators will discuss the political situation in Honduras as well as prospects for recovery in Haiti.


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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Feb. 15, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 31


Women's Club film highlights its 70 years of history

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Nostalgia flooded the Salón Augusto el Grande in the Aurola Holiday Inn during the 70th anniversary luncheon of the Women’s Club of Costa Rica Wednesday when a 22-minute documentary movie about the club’s history enthralled close to 200 members and guests. 

The movie weaves a remarkable tale of the contributions made over seven decades by women united by friendship and a desire to serve the country. The donations total well over half a million dollars. The energy of members is incalculable. 

The list of contributions is endless.  Examples include the establishment of air-raid shelters and first-aid stations in the 1940s, the gift of an iron lung during the polio epidemic of 1952, donation of the first mammogram to the country in 1980, thousands of scholarships to public high school students and installation of libraries in primary schools.

The star of the movie, past president Betty Jimenez Mooney, arrived from the U.S.A. in 1950.  In Limón, where she initially lived for three years only three people had cars. Everyone rode bicycles.  No highway existed between San José and the seaports, only oxcart trails and the narrow-gauge railway that ran from San José to Limón and Puntarenas.

Her recollections flow with amusing stories, like the time the club held a gala event at the Teatro Nacional and a flame-throwing act set the velvet curtains on fire.   She remembers the early 70s when only one hotel existed at Jacó beach and planes landed on the beach, dodging rice combines and oxcarts. 

“We always said we had the best of Costa Rica,” Ms. Mooney said.

Elizabeth Oreamuno, a teacher from Philadelphia,
Ms. mooney
Betty
Jimenez
Mooney


Pennsylvania, followed her husband, Dr. Alberto Oreamuno Flores, back to his home in Costa Rica.  She taught English at the Costa Rican-North American Cultural Center and in 1940 founded the USA Women’s Club.  In 1952-53, Dr. Oreamuno served as vice president of the country. 

The club changed its name several times, eventually simplifying it to the Women’s Club of Costa Rica, consistent with a membership of women from Central, South and North America and most continents of the World, all united in a common goal to assist others, especially children who are the future of this country.

The documentary film is an initiative of Margarita Persico, producer, director and journalist, with current Club President Bonnie Murry and 2006 President Grace Woodman-Fernandes as co-directors and club historians, and Joan Ritchie Dewar, researcher/reporter).  More information on the Women’s Club of Costa Rica, its charitable initiatives and monthly meetings is found at www.wccr.org.


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Rights groups praise action
in Guatemalan massacre


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Guatemalan rights advocates are hailing a decision by the country's supreme court to issue arrest warrants for former members of the military accused of massacring villagers during the country's long and brutal civil war. But lawyers for the victims say bringing those responsible for the massacre to justice remains elusive.

Lawyers for some of Guatemala's most active human rights groups say the warrants for the arrest of 17 former military men is a step in the right direction after a decade of legal squabbling. The 17 are believed responsible for the 1982 Dos Erres massacre in the northern department of Peten, carried out during one of the bloodiest years of the country's civil war.

Benito Morales, a lawyer for the human rights group Rigoberta Menchu Foundation, says the large number of warrants in such a case is unprecedented.

Morales says victims' rights organizations are pleased the Guatemalan courts have finally taken action in the case. But Morales expressed skepticism that the arrest warrants would be followed up with concrete action. He says a number of higher ranking officers named in the case, whose whereabouts were known as of last week, fled their homes in Guatemala City following news of the arrest warrants. He added Guatemalan authorities appear uninterested in their attempts to apprehend the perpetrators.

The Guatemalan supreme court issued the capture orders, some of which reactivate old warrants issued nearly a decade ago but never acted upon, after the Inter-American Human Rights Court urged action in the case. Some of those sought had been previously indicted 10 years ago. But legal maneuvers had stalled any further action, until victims' rights associations took the case to the Inter-American court, which is based in Costa Rica.

Edgar Peerez, a lawyer for the Guatemala City-based Center for Legal Action on Human Rights, says it was only because of international pressure that relatives of the victims are closer to seeing justice done.

Pérez says the cases would likely still be stalled in the Guatemalan justice system had the Inter-American court not forced Guatemalan judges into action. He says there are other such cases pending before international courts, and victims' rights advocates hope for similar results.

The families of victims of the Dos Erres massacre also expressed hope that the new arrest warrants would lead to justice for their loved ones after nearly three decades of impunity for those responsible. Raúl Gómez lived in Dos Erres at the time of the massacre, and though he managed to escape, he lost a number of family members.

Gómez says he will consider justice to be done only when those responsible for the killing of his family members have been tried in court. While welcoming the warrants, he and other relatives of the victims say it is outrageous that perpetrators known to be responsible for the slaying of their loved ones have not been apprehended, and continue to live in relative luxury in Guatemala.

The remains of more than 200 people, including numerous women and children, were discovered in mass graves around the town of Dos Erres in 1995. Five years later, Guatemalan President Alfonso Portillo admitted government responsibility for the slayings, leading to the initial legal proceedings against the military members accused of carrying out the killings.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Feb. 15, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 31


Latin American news
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Three men indicted for role
in detaining illegal aliens

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

A federal grand jury in Los Angles, California, Friday indicted three men who were involved in a smuggling operation that brought hundreds of illegal aliens from Central and South America to the United States and held them at a drop house in Lynwood until relatives could pay smuggling fees that ran as high as $13,000.

The indictment alleges that the three defendants were guards at the drop house, where illegal aliens sometimes were threatened with death if their smuggling fees were not quickly paid.

The six-count indictment charges Gustavo Sanchez-Lopez, 30. Diego Martinez-Gonzalez, 28, and Francisco Moreno-Lopez, 55, all of whom have claimed Mexican citizenship but who are believed to be from Guatemala. The three defendants were arrested Jan. 28, when authorities executed a search warrant at the drop house on South Virginia Avene in Lynwood. At that time, investigators found 37 illegal aliens inside the house.

The indictment charges all three defendants with one count of conspiracy to harbor and conceal illegal aliens, and five counts of harboring and concealing illegal aliens for financial gain. Each of the defendants faces a statutory maximum penalty of 60 years in federal prison if convicted of the charged offenses.

The indictment alleges that the three defendants harbored approximately 336 illegal aliens during a two-month period. The illegal aliens who had been smuggled into the United States allegedly were threatened with beatings or death if their smuggling fees were not promptly paid.

 The indictment specifically alleges that Martinez-Gonzalez told female smuggled aliens that they would be allowed to have blankets or jackets if they had sexual relations with him, or that they would not be allowed to shower unless they had sexual relations with him. The indictment also accuses Sanchez-Lopez of telling female smuggled aliens that they would not be allowed to shower unless they had sexual relations with him.

The three defendants acted as guards in the drop house, according to the indictment, which accuses them of taking turns overseeing the smuggled aliens, controlling the smuggled aliens’ movement within the drop house, and ensuring that smuggled aliens stayed inside the drop house until their smuggling fees were paid.  

“Human smuggling is a ruthless, violent enterprise that generates billions of dollars in illicit proceeds,” said Miguel Unzueta, special agent in charge of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Office of Investigations in Los Angeles. “ICE is working aggressively to target the criminals and criminal organizations involved in this dangerous trade who routinely put aliens’ lives at risk.”




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What we published this week: Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Earlier
The contents of this page and this Web site are copyrighted by Consultantes Río Colorado 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007  and 2008 and may not be reproduced anywhere without permission. Abstracts and fair use are permitted.  Check HERE for details