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(506) 223-1327        Published Thursday, April 13, 2006, in Vol. 6, No. 74          E-mail us    
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Dry law in effect as holiday is in full swing
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Fuerza Pública officers were out in force all over the country Wednesday night sealing up bars and liquor and beer areas of restaurants and supermarkets.

The two-day dry law has gone into effect, but that does not include the weather. The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional said that warm humid air would be flowing into the Caribbean slope today as colder winds from the north diminish. The forecast predicted afternoon rains and evening downpours and electrical storms. Isolated rains were predicted over much of the rest of the country, including the Pacific coast.

Road checkpoints set up by the Ministerio de Seguridad Pública have begun to rack up successes.

At the Zurqui Tunnel checkpoint Tuesday, officers made 37 arrests. Some 28 persons were detained for immigration violations, and eight for violating firearms and explosives laws. Six pistols and two revolvers were confiscated, the ministry said.

One person was detained while carrying what officers described as 33 grams of marijuana.

The tunnel is on route 32, the Carretera Braulio Carrillo, the main highway from San José to the northern zone and the Caribbean coast.

Other checkpoints are at Limonal, Guanacaste; Coyolar de Orotina; el Higuerón; Belén, Santa Cruz; Palmar Norte; the toll station at Naranjo, and on route 32 at Río Peñas Blancas.
Representatives from a number of law enforcement agencies are working at the checkpoints, including  Policía de Migración, Policía del Tránsito and the Fuerza Pública.

Traffic is heavy at major border crossings. At Peñas Blancas at the Nicaraguan border, immigration workers have rejected 1,060 persons between April 7 and 11 when they attempted to enter Costa Rica with faulty paperwork, said the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública.       
 
The dry law endures until midnight Friday, meaning that the sale of alcohol is banned for all of Thursday and all of Friday. These are principal religious holidays for Christians, and even the Fuerza Pública admits that the law is in place to respect the religious faith of the majority of Costa Ricans.

Nevertheless, the law came in for some criticism this week on Spanish television where some argued that closing alcohol outlets for two days encouraged Costa Ricans to purchase more the days before and after. Some lawmakers said they would consider changing the law, but they are going to be out of office in just two weeks.

Although the holiday that runs through Monday this year is generally called Semana Santa or Holy Week, the eight-day Jewish celebration of Passover began at sundown Wednesday and will run until April 20. This is the holiday when Jews celebrate that the Angel of Death spared or passed over their first-born sons during the final plague that God inflicted on the Egyptians. This is part of the biblical story of Moses and the flight of the Jews from servitude in Egypt.



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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, April 13, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 74


Costa Rica Expertise
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Legal settlement curbs
California spam source


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
and special reports

The U.S. Federal Trade commission has moved against an Internet spammer who used third parties to send out millions of deceptive, unwanted messages.

The spam messages promoted mortgage loans and other products and services and contained hyperlinks that led to the Web pages of the defendants.

Some of the spam messages were sent in an effort to recruit others to work at home and send out spam messages. The messages had wide circulation, including to Costa Rica. The FTC and the California Attorney General's Office got on the case when Internet users forwarded 1.8 million such messages to regulators.

A court settlement will bar future violations of the spam laws, will require the operators to monitor affiliates closely to assure that they are not violating state and federal laws, and requires that they give up approximately $475,000 in ill-gotten gains.

The spammer was identified as Optin Global, Inc., doing business as Vision Media Limited Corp., USA Lenders Network, USA Lenders, and USA Debt Consolidation Service;  Rick Yang, and Peonie Pui Ting Chen

The messages sent to regulators demonstrated that the defendants were violating almost every provision of the U.S. anti-spam laws, the law enforcers said.

The FTC and California charged that the defendants e-mail contained false or forged header information; included deceptive subject headings; failed to identify e-mail as advertisements or solicitations; failed to notify consumers they had a right to opt out of receiving more e-mail; failed to provide an opt-out mechanism, and failed to include a valid physical postal address.

At the agencies’ request, the court ordered a temporary halt to the illegal spamming, pending trial, and froze the defendants’ assets. The settlement announced Thursday ends that litigation.

The settlement requires that the defendants establish an aggressive monitoring regime for any future affiliate program to assure that their affiliates are complying with the provisions of the relevant U.S. and California laws.

The order imposes a $2.4 million judgement — representing the total of the defendants’ ill-gotten gains. Based on financial records provided by the defendants, the judgment will be suspended upon payment of $385,000 in cash and approximately $90,000 from the sale of real property. Should the court find that the defendants misrepresented their financial situations, the entire $2.4 million will be due.

The settlement also contains certain bookkeeping and record keeping requirements to allow the agencies to monitor compliance.

Trucker goes into river
and joins holiday list


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A trucker became the latest Costa Rican Semana Santa holiday fatality.

The truck plunged off the Guápiles highway Wednesday and landed on its side in the Río Sucio, investigators said. The driver, identified by the last name of Williams and with an age of 38, died in the wreck, officials said.

The accident  took place near the bridge over the river on the highway, the carretera Braulio Carrillo.

The mishap was one of four Wednesday in which trucks were involved. Other professional drivers blamed fatigue for the rash of accidents and said that many drivers were pushing their limits in order to complete their work so they could spend the Semana Santa holidays with family.

Williams becomes the sixth traffic fatality since the holidays began Saturday.

Lawmakers leave early
for Easter vacation


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The legislative session appears to be ending on a sour note.

Although deputies were supposed to meet Wednesday in the daily afternoon plenario, only 36 of the lawmakers showed up, two short of a two-thirds quorum.

The current legislative session has two more weeks to go after the Semana Santa holiday that ends Tuesday. Major legislation still is being considered, although the most important still are in committee.

Man killed by robbers
who wanted his car


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A 26-year-old man died Tuesday night when armed men tried to rob his automobile.

The victim, identified by the last name of Valverde was driving his vehicle near the Ciudadela 15 de Setiembre, San Sebastián, when men tried to halt the vehicle and take it. Valverde was accompanied by a woman who survived.

Investigators said that Valverde appears to have resisted the robbery and sustained a bullet in the back.

No newspaper Friday

A.M. Costa Rica will not publish tomorrow, Good Friday. Consequently, the newspaper offices will be closed today and Friday.

The newspaper will be published Monday and Tuesday, but the newspaper offices will not be open Monday, a legal holiday here. Of course, newspaper staffers are available nearly all the time via e-mail.
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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, April 13, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 74





 

Food for
the poor
Jesus Christ began his agony in the garden of  Gethsemane, according to Christian dogma. The tradition of the garden or huerto in Spanish also continues today as a way to collect foodstuffs for the poor.

In Desamparados Wednesday night, Marielos Chacón and Miguel Amador from  Movimiento de la Jornada de Vida Cristiana received vegetables and even a dove to be sold to raise money for the poor.

A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramíez Vindas


The moments that make living here worth it
Although I had no intention of becoming so, I am now familiar with all of the hospitals, except the children’s, in the metropolitan area.  My experience includes three hospitals with the Caja and three private.  If there are more, I don’t want to know about them.  My doctor at Hospital México referred me to a doctor at San Juan de Dios, the last to complete my repertoire.   Actually, the referral was some papers giving me permission to seek an appointment.

Each hospital seems more confusing than the last upon first entering.  San Juan de Dios is right at the head of Paseo Colon and is a mammoth structure, although upon first entering, the reception area and hallways are not large.  There was, fortunately, a window indicating that it gave information to patients.  That was my first stop.  The man behind the window sent me on my way to another office, and told me to return after I had my papers properly stamped.

The man in the designated office told me I had to go out of the building to another office.  When I returned to the first window, Carlos (as I was to learn was his name), looked slightly annoyed and told me he would take me to the correct place.  For the next hour Carlos led me to the various offices, sat with me and chatted while we waited.  In one waiting room, a pretty teenaged girl asked me where I was from.  I told her, and she said she had lived in Kansas.  “Like Dorothy, you are not in Kansas anymore,” I joked.  She was Tico-American.  Then I asked her how she liked living in Costa Rica after Kansas.  She said she preferred it here because the people were “so happy.”  

Finally, we made it to the window that would give me my appointment (by now I had a folder with my name on it – I was in the system!)  A woman was just closing the window and there was a sign that said that there would be no more appointments given out until April 18.

I was not all that upset because Carlos had made my passage quite pleasant.  A long time ago I wrote about “Tico Moments” in a column, referring to the kindness extended beyond the ordinary by a Tico. Carlos’ help qualified.    

Then, on Sunday I decided to stay downtown after
Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart
jostuart@amcostarica.com

 

the concert. The city is obviously emptying and closing down for Semana Santa.  The Teatro Nacional was almost empty, but those of us who were there thoroughly enjoyed the violin and piano recital.  

By the time I was on my way home, the rain had begun.  The first rain of the season and it entered boldly — and I was without an umbrella.  I got on the Cementerio bus just before the downpour, but when I got off at the new bus stop on Avenida 2 east of Soda Tapia, it was raining hard.  Fortunately, there was a bus stop for my Estadio bus at the same stop.

I sought dryness under a small awning about 15 feet from the bus stop.  Shortly a man came out of the building attached to the awning and asked if I would like to seek better refuge on the porch.  I explained that I would not see the bus coming if I did, so he came out and stood with me and when the bus came down the street hailed it, stopping it before the bus stop.  The bus driver was most gracious when I scrambled on. There weren’t many people on the bus, and they were all discussing the recent bus accident that landed the bus among the trees of the Parque la Sabana or being entertained by a little boy of about 6. 

When I stood up right after the driver stopped at the parada in front of ICE building, he slowed down and asked if I had missed my stop.  I said no, I wanted the next stop — well, I really wanted to get off at the corner (a good 75 feet before the next stop). 

With encouragement from the other riders, the driver kindly dropped me off at the corner. I am sure the Pavas bus driver would not have done so.   I hurried home in the lessening rain, not minding getting wet because I had had my share of Tico moments to keep me warm and cheerful.  Perhaps it is the coming of Easter, but everyone who is left in the city seems to be even more kind and helpful than normal.  I’ve never lived in Kansas, but I do find it easy to be happy here.






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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, April 13, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 74




Perú and U.S. OK accord on free trade treaty
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Senior trade officials from the United States and Perú have signed an agreement that should expand economic opportunities and raise living standards in Perú as well as promote stability in the Andean region, according to U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman.

Portman and Peruvian Minister of Foreign Trade and Tourism Alfredo Ferrero Diez Canseco signed the U.S.-Perú Trade Promotion Agreement at a ceremony Wednesday at the Organization of American States in Washington.

Portman said the agreement is a comprehensive, fair and balanced agreement that if approved by the legislatures of Perú and the United States, "will promote increased economic activity and commercial prosperity for both of our nations.”

The treaty will lock in the benefits Peru currently enjoys under the Andean Trade Preference Act that is set to expire in December and also will help Perú expand its trade capacity and attract more foreign investment, Portman said.
The benefits of the pact will extend beyond Peru’s borders, he added.

"This agreement with Perú is instrumental in our strategy to advance prosperity within our hemisphere," Portman said. "We hope to bring Colombia and Ecuador into this agreement as soon as they are ready so no one misses out on the benefits of trade.”

U.S. free trade negotiations with Colombia, Perú and Ecuador began in May 2004 with Bolivia participating as an observer.  The negotiations concluded in December and a free trade agreement with Colombia was reached in February.  The final round of U.S. trade negotiations with Ecuador is expected to resume in May.

Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo said at the signing ceremony that his support for the pact is based on the agreement's potential for generating jobs and reducing poverty in Peru.  Peru’s poor have waited too long for access to economic opportunity and the treaty, if passed, will contribute considerably to addressing this problem, Toledo said.


Former president Garcia seems assured of a runoff spot in May vote
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Vote counting continues in Peru's hotly contested presidential election, with nationalist firebrand Ollanta Humala solidifying his position as top vote-getter. Former President Alan Garcia has pulled ahead of a center-right attorney in a close battle for second place, and with every passing hour it appears increasingly likely Garcia will face Humala in a final round of balloting next month.

Election results continue to trickle in from remote regions of Peru, as well as from Peruvian embassies and consulates in foreign lands. Since polling stations closed Sunday, nationalist ex-military officer Humala has seen his lead increase by several percentage points to more than 30 percent of the vote. Garcia's total has remained relatively stable at about 25 percent, while attorney Lourdes Flores, who hoped to become Peru's first female leader, has seen her vote total decline from 26 percent to less than 24 percent.

To many political analysts, Garcia's lead over Flores, though small, looks hard to reverse, given that results have already been tabulated from most polling stations in urban areas, where Ms. Flores' support is strongest.

But Ms. Flores says she has no intention of conceding defeat until all ballots are counted and the results confirmed. For his part, Garcia has steadfastly refused to claim victory. Election officials say it could be days, or even weeks, before final, complete results are known.

Lima schoolteacher Alejandra Sanz says she would
have liked to see Humala win the presidency outright with an absolute majority in Sunday's first round of balloting.

"We need someone with a strong hand to put an end to corruption," she said. "This country needs someone like Humala or Chávez," referring to [Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez.

But hair stylist Maria Sanchez says she is bitterly disappointed that Ms. Flores did not get more votes.

"I wanted Lourdes to win," said Ms. Sanchez. "But here we have a male-dominated country, and people are poorly informed. They say, 'I am going to vote for Ollanta because he was a military officer and will bring change.' I think they are wrong."

Ms. Sanchez says she could never support Humala, and has no choice but to vote for Alan Garcia in the second round.

Housemaid Beatriz Gonzalez also says she voted for Ms. Flores, but will back Humala if the choice is between him and Garcia, whose first term in office in the late 1980s was marked by hyper-inflation and near economic collapse.

"Alan defrauded us once before and left us with nothing," she said. "I fear we would go back to long lines for rice and sugar."

Observers say many political parties that lost in the first round of balloting are likely to come out against Humala — and what are perceived as his authoritarian leanings — in the second round. 


Labor activist turned president getting a heavy dose of popular protests
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

LA PAZ, Bolivia — President Evo Morales is facing a new wave of labor protests.

Public health officials staged a nationwide strike Tuesday and Wednesday, demanding a 7 percent wage hike granted by the government be raised to 10 percent.

Bus drivers also went on strike, opposing proposed taxes in the city of Cochabamba, Morales' political stronghold. Employees of troubled airline Lloyd
Aereo Boliviano staged another in a series of protests calling for government assistance.

Morales says the protests are rooted in politics and aimed at destabilizing his administration.

Before he took office a little more than three months ago, Morales was a veteran activist who staged strikes himself, some of which resulted in the ousting of two presidents in less than two years.

Several trade unions have announced further action for the coming days.






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