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(506) 2223-1327                       Published Monday, May 7, 2012, in Vol. 12, No. 90                           Email us
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kidnapped parrot chicks
Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública photo

Crimes against
animals uncovered

Illegal hunting, rustling and the illegal transportation of parrot chicks, like these to the left, required police action over the weekend. The Fuerza Pública said it was stepping up its efforts against such crimes.

See story HERE!

Scammers' confab invitation displays sophistication
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Internet scamsters have graduated from transparent claims of free money to a more sophisticated environmental effort that includes a classy Web page.

The latest attempt to tap the purses of the naive is the Climate Change International Conference 2012. The purported conference is making the rounds in an email invitation that is showing up in some Costa Rican inboxes. The invitation seeks an abstract of an academic paper on global warming, invokes the name of the U.N. Climate Change Conference and promises an all-expense paid trip to London for qualified applicants from developing countries.

Says the email:

“CCIC 2012 themed 'Impacts of Climate Change on the Environment' Global Warming Policy and Markets will provide a platform to discuss the future opportunities and challenges related to the design, development and commercialization of low carbon innovation, technologies, products and services. The event will be a unique learning experience, networking space and an opportunity to think. Delegates will come globally from companies, entrepreneurs, as well as academia, government and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). The conference is supported by an international Advisory Board.”

The invitation comes from conference chairman Dr. Oscar Brandon, who seems to have the same telephone number as one used by a Mrs. Wilcox in an earlier email scam and has the same address as a London clothing shop, according to an online directory.

Presumably this environmental scam will generate certain fees and up-front cases for those who apply. Of course, the amount will not be anywhere near the $535 million the Obama administration lavished on the solar panel manufacturer Solyndra. But the approach is the same: Align your efforts with an environmental cause.

There is a temptation to call these scammers Nigerians because that country has a record of Internet abuse, and the use of London telephone numbers that are automatically forwarded to another country, like Dr. Brandon's +44-702-405-7717. However, many countries, including the United States, host Internet scammers.
Scammer Web page
2012 conference has a new Web site

The sophistication is way above the technique of simply buying the back page of The Tico Times with a stolen credit card last August to offer imaginary electronic ware. This time the scammers have a Web page, even though a check of Internet records shows the domain was purchased April 18. The domain ownership is held in private by a firm in the U.S. State of Washington. That firm may be an accomplice. A similar email from 2011 uses an Eastern European Cyrillic character set.

A check of the Internet shows that the 2012 climate change conference invitation has been making the rounds since last December. There was a similar scam promoting a 2011 conference, according to an Internet search. The 2011 conference announcement said it was supported by the Nelson Mandela Foundation and William J. Clinton Foundation and featured a photo of both men.

Mrs. Wilcox, who has the same telephone number as Dr. Brandon, is one of those widows ready to send off vast sums of money to complete strangers, according to her email that circulated as late as last December.

The genius of this new appeal, in addition to the Web page, is that victims are asked to create an abstract of an academic paper suitable for delivery at the mythical conference. The email promises a peer review process to pick the best papers for delivery. They are brought into the scammer's web step by step.

The scam busting Web site Scamorama,com has a list of fake conferences that have been the subject of email frauds.

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New scandal for president
causes minister to leave

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Chinchilla administration planned a highway across the northern part of the country and along the Río San Juan to open up the area to land transport. The president, Laura Chinchilla, sees the highway as a way to retain national sovereignty.

The problem is with the international border with Nicaragua. Due to a 19th century treaty, the border is the south bank of the river, so Nicaragua controls transportation on the waterway. Since the treaty, Costa Ricans have been at the whim and mercy of whatever Nicaraguan administration cared to restrict travel.

That seems to be at an end when the Chinchilla administration announced the highway, Ruta 1856 Juan Rafael Mora Porras, would be built. That was after Nicaragua soldiers invaded part of northern Costa Rica, triggering an appeal to the International Court of Justice in The Hague. That case still is being litigated.

The government of Daniel Ortega is seeking to open a new mouth to the Río San Juan to circumvent the silted-up stretch that is further to the north,

Against this backdrop, the Chinchilla administration decided to build the highway. The 160-kilometer (about 99-mile) route parallels the river. Nicaraguan officials were quick to claim environmental damages, similar to what Costa Rica claimed after the incursion by soldiers. That complaint also went to the International Court of Justice.

The last thing that the Chinchilla administration needed was a scandal over the highway. But Casa Presidencial announced Friday that there was one.

Two unnamed employees of the Consejo Nacional de Vialidad are accused of taking bribes for some of the many construction companies involved in the highway. They have not been named formally but the case has been turned over to prosecutors. The allegations appear to be complex and involved the purchase of some land for the highway.

Although the scandal only became public Friday, work appears to have been stopped on the highway for some time even though in February officials said it was 80 percent completed. There also are local complaints that the work has been shoddy.

Although President Chinchilla clearly said Friday that her public works minister, Francisco Jíménez, had nothing to do with the bribe case, he was asked to quit.

Luis Llach, a former vice minister of Obras Públicas y Transportes, was asked to take on the job.

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By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Here is the section where you can scan short summaries from the Spanish-language press. If you want to know more, just click on a link and you will see and longer summary and have the opportunity to read the entire news story on the page of the Spanish-language newspaper but translated into English.

Translations may be a bit rough, but software is improving every day.

When you see the Summary in English of news stories not covered today by A.M. Costa Rica, you will have a chance to comment.

This is a new service of A.M. Costa Rica called Costa Rica Report. Editor is Daniel Woodall, and you can contact him HERE!
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paca hunter
Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía
y Seguridad Pública photo
Confiscated quadracycle and dead pacas.
rustled cows
Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía
y Seguridad Pública photo
Four cows, including one with a fake brand on its rump.
Police confront crimes involving cows, parrots and pacas
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Illegal hunting, rustling and the illegal transportation of parrot chicks required police action over the weekend. The Fuerza Pública said it was stepping up its efforts against such crimes.

The confiscations began Friday at a road checkpoint in Puerto Jiménez on the Osa Peninsula. Officers stopped a man traveling on a quadracycle. Upon inspection, officers found two dead  pacas, called tepezcuintles in Spanish. They are nocturnal forest rodents that frequently are raised for food.

Officers said they also confiscated a .22-caliber revolver that appears to have been used to kill the creatures. A prosecutor in Golfito ordered the confiscation of the animals, the quadracycle and the pistol, said the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública.

Sunday officers of the Policía de Fronteras from La Cruz stopped two men who were transporting parrot chicks in a vehicle. Officers had been tipped off by someone at a private firm who has seen the men and the birds. The two men were cited to appear in court, and the chicks were confiscated.
Both incidents involved personnel from the local conservation areas and the Ministerio del Ambiente, Energía y Telecomunicaciones.

In the northern zone police in conjunction with the Judicial Investigating Organization managed to recover cows that had been rustled.

There has been a wave of cattle thefts in the area. Sunday, based on a tip, police arrived at a finca in El Progreso de Upala near the Nicaraguan border.

There they found four animals that had been reported stolen from a finca in Las Milpas, they said. Police notified a prosecutor who ordered the woman who owns the finca to report to court, they said. Police took away the cows. They added the crooks tried to alter the brands on the animals by placing a new brand over that of the true owner.

Last April 28 frontier police confiscated two more cows which they believe were taken from the same finca. However, police said that there were many more cases in the area that had caused considerable economic impact of ranchers.

Food chamber asks president to delay sales tax decree
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President's Laura Chinchilla's efforts to tax certain food products still will have a negative effect on low-income Costa Ricans, said the Cámara Costarricense de la Industria Alimentaria.

The decree, which seeks to make a difference between what the poor eat and what better off residents eat, goes into effect today.

The chamber said that the plan was not thought out well. For example, it said that 90 percent of bread products will be affected by applying the current 13 percent tax to various items used in baking.

The chamber also said that there was not enough time given to
 allow merchants to adjust the tax on products that will not be subject to the levy.  The chamber is asking the president, via a letter sent Friday, to suspend the decree until adjustments can be made.

The president's decree was issued in the wake of the failure of her 14-percent value added tax. The decree keeps some basic food items tax-free, but applies a tax to other items that the president considers a luxury, such as T-bone steak.

Previously these also were tax-free.

Meanwhile, some expats report that small operators, such as those who sell vegetables and other food products at the weekly ferias, are mystified and confused by the edict.

International protection sought for hammerhead sharks
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Some 28 organizations and nine countries are backing a proposal by the Ministerio de Ambiente, Energía y Telecomunicaciones to include the hammerhead shark in a list of threatened species, according to a local environmental organization.

The list is by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, known as CITIES.

“Because the trade in wild animals and plants crosses borders between countries, the effort to regulate it requires international cooperation to safeguard certain species from over-exploitation. CITIES was conceived in the spirit of such cooperation. Today, it accords varying degrees of protection to more than 30,000 species of animals and plants, whether they are traded as live specimens, fur coats or dried herbs,” said the convention on its Web site.

Roughly 5,000 species of animals and 29,000 species of plants
 are protected by CITIES against over-exploitation through international trade, said the convention. But hammerheads are not among them.

If the shark is included, other countries, such as Panamá, Ecuador and Colombia are committed to help protect them, according to the environmental organization Programa Restauración de Tortugas Marinas, known as Pretoma.

The Isla del Coco is famous for its large population of hammerheads.

Randall Arauz of Pretoma in a news release pointed out the contradictory nature of Costa Rica's shark policies. While the environment ministry is attempting to protect the hammerhead, the Instituto Costarricense de Pesca y Acuacultura is promoting the annual importation of dozens of tons of shark fins from Nicaragua, something that should be corrected immediately, he said.

Pretoma has worked successfully to prevent the offloading of shark fins at Costa Rican private docks.

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Judicial agents are investigating two apparent assassinations
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The weekend witnessed what appears to be at least two assassinations and other cases of gun play and stabbings.

In Cartago a 40-year-old woman was gunned down Sunday afternoon while she was driving her car. She suffered multiple bullet wounds, and investigators suspect she was killed by someone who was riding as a passenger in her car.

In La Rita de Guápiles, a 23-year-old man died from multiple gunshots about 12:30 a.m. Saturday.  He was identified by the last name of Loaiciga. He was a former resident of Alajuelita who had just moved to the area. Judicial agents said there was no sign of robbery. All his documents, cell telephone and wallet still were on the body.

Over the weekend judicial agents captured a man with the last name of Medrano who is accused of killing his 22-year-old brother April 28. The suspect is 25. The death appears to have been the result of a family quarrel.

In San Vito de Coto Brus, judicial agents said a taxi driver was
 the victim of what appears to be a robbery. He was identified by the last name of Benavides. Agents said he was 74 years old. His body was discovered Saturday about 5:30 a.m.

He was a porteador or unlicensed taxi driver who worked the night shift.

At Hospital San Juan de Dios a 19 year old was hanging between life and death after having been dropped off at the  Clínica Solón Núñez in Hatillo. That happened about 9:45 a.m. Saturday, and there was no explanation of what happened to the injured man.

Judicial agents detained a 32-year-old woman in Manuel Antonio after a 32-year-old man suffered knife wounds in a dispute. The man who has the last name of Ramírez, was injured about 5 a.m. near a local hotel, said agents.  The man was treated at a local clinic and then taken to Hospital Monseñor Sanabria in Puntarenas.

In Boca Vieja, Quepos, a 21-year-old man with the last name of Durán suffered a knife wound in a personal dispute, said agents. He was stabbed in the back.

Weekend in some areas punctuated by doses of heavy rain
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The weekend was a wet one with a series of heavy downpours pointing out the deficiencies in the drainage and where accumulations of trash have blocked the sewers. Afternoon rains were nearly universal Saturday in the Central Valley. Guanacaste and Limón appeared to duck most of the downpours, although there could have been localized showers.

Today the Instituto Meteorológico Nacional predicts more of the same: Hot mornings with afternoon showers. The Central Valley, the Nicoya peninsula and the central and south Pacific are all scheduled for cloudy skies with evening showers and thunderstorms. The rest of the country will at least be partly cloudy with a low probability of storms.
Tobias Bolaños airport in Pavas registered 40.7 millimeters (1.6 inches) of rain through 7 a.m. Sunday and 26 millimeters (1.03 inches) thereafter.

San José, according to the automatic weather station in Barrio Aranjuez, had 11 millimeters to Sunday at 7 a.m. and 11 millimeters more afterwards. Each is about .43 of an inch.

At the Universidad de la Paz Sunday near Ciudad Colón, the automatic station registered 28.8 millimeters or about 1.13 inches.

On the Pacific coast higher than normal seas caused some flooding. That is likely to continue based on the moon being in a close approach to the earth.

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Mexican journalists march
to protest wave of murders

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Journalists have led a solidarity protest march in Mexico City for three photojournalists killed in the gulf state of Veracruz.

Reporters and supporters of the media held photos of the slain journalists during Friday's march.

Journalist Epigmenio Ibarra says crime organizations target reporters with no fear of consequences.

"The medium of information in Mexico has turned into a high risk activity with impunity for organized criminal groups and authorities and institutions penetrate and sometimes virtually run by these criminals," Ibarra noted.

The dismembered bodies of the three photojournalists were found in a canal in Veracruz Thursday.  The discovery comes days after a magazine reporter who covered crime was killed at her home in the same state.

Mexico's government says the killings resemble violence carried out by drug cartels.

Reporters Without Border has expressed concern.

"We can say now that in Veracruz, like in other states, journalists are being terrorized," said Balbina Flores of Reporters Without Borders.  "We have heard testimonies from them, we have heard their fears, they're scared to continue working.  But also many have stayed put despite the fear and continue to work in conditions that are really dramatic.  Dramatic because authorities are not concerned with giving guarantees or with the security of journalists so this is the first impact."

Media reports say at least two of the journalists found dead in Veracruz had received threats in the past year.

Mexico's Human Rights Commission says more than 70 journalists have been killed in the country since 2000.

As expected, Hollande
wins presidency in France

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Francois Hollande has been elected France's first Socialist president in nearly two decades, beating incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy in a vote marked by anger over austerity measures, high unemployment and the country's lagging economy.  Initial official results of Sunday's vote show Hollande winning with 52 percent of the vote.

Surveys predicted Hollande would be the winner in the second-round runoff.  And the Socialist candidate and his supporters savored the victory.

Thousands of people gathered around the Socialist Party headquarters and the Place de la Bastille in Paris, a historic site of the French Revolution, to celebrate Hollande's victory.  Crowds also packed Hollande's political home base of Tulle in central France, where the president-elect delivered his victory speech.

Hollande said Europe is watching France and he predicted that his victory would be celebrated in other European countries.  He said it signified that economic austerity is not the final word and that his message is one of growth and prosperity.

Turnout was high, with about 80 percent of eligible voters casting their ballots, higher than during the first round of voting in April.  The strength of the Socialist victory will be determined during France's legislative elections, next month.

In a speech to his supporters, a grim-looking President Nicolas Sarkozy wished Hollande well. Sarkozy said he did as much as he could to protect France from the economic crisis that continues to rock the 17-member eurozone, along with other European countries like Britain.

Some analysts say that Hollande's victory was almost accidental.  He has never held a ministerial post.  A year ago, many French citizens widely expected another Socialist politician,  former International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn, would be the country's next president.  But Strauss-Kahn's political fortunes plummeted after he faced sexual assault charges in New York that were later dropped and a current pimping charge in France.

Many citizens criticize Sarkozy for his flamboyant lifestyle and his perceived inability to fulfill political promises.

Hollande's message for growth has resonated across much of the eurozone, where economic austerity measures have sparked public protests in countries like Greece and Spain.

But financial markets and some European leaders are anxious about France's president-elect.  Critics reject Hollande's call for more government spending when France and other European economies are already deeply in debt.

Greek voters reject
measures of austerity

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Greek voters have punished the two main parties for imposing unpopular economic austerity measures demanded by the European Union.

Government projections from Sunday's parliamentary elections show the conservative New Democracy party winning about 19 percent of the votes -- far short of being able to form a government on its own and sharply down from the 2009 election.

The Socialist PASOK party is projected to win 14 percent, while the leftist Syriza is predicted to win 16 percent.

If the projections hold up, party leaders, those who back the austerity plans and those opposed, would enter into what are likely to be tough talks on forming a new coalition government.

PASOK took power in 2009 and soon discovered the country was deep in debt. It entered into a coalition late last year with the conservatives with the aim of getting parliament to pass the tough economic austerity measures. The EU demanded Greece impose the measures if it wanted crucial bailout money.

The measures include job cuts and tax hikes, infuriating millions of Greeks who say they sacrificed enough.

Both parties, which joined forces in 2009, have said they will press the European Union, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank to ease austerity requirements imposed on Athens' debt-ridden government in return for more than $300 billion in two bailouts. But many Greeks accuse the ND-PASOK coalition of fueling the crisis with corrupt practices and widespread mismanagement.

More than 10 smaller parties that opposed the austerity plans are projected to win seats in parliament, running on platforms opposing the austerity measures. They include the communist KKE party that wants to leave the eurozone altogether.

The far-right anti-immigration Golden Dawn party was also poised to enter parliament for the first time in decades.
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Stranded fishermen use a makeshift raft.

Shipwreck crew member
rescued to go to jail

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

When the Perla III ran aground in the early hours of Wednesday, the problems were just beginning for one member of a fishing boat crew.

The boat captain and the two-person crew ended up on a nearby small island after having sent a distress call. The heavy seas and the shallow, rocky area near Punta Guiones was a problem for the Servicio Nacional de Guardacostas from the Flamingo station.

Eventually the trio packaged their belongs in on a makeshift raft and swam to the waiting rescue launch.

Coast guard crewmen checked the identification of the captain, Oscar Cerdas Abarca, 44, and Juan Pablo Martínez Bustos, 57. But when they came to the crew member with the last names of Aragón Calderón they found out he had been a fugitive from justice for two years, they said. The 29-year-old man faces a charge of sexual abuse of a minor, and he was taken into custody.

Meanwhile the remaining crew members were making plans to pull the Perla III from the sand spit where she had run aground.

Rehab center fire in Perú
may have killed 14 persons

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Firefighters in Perú say fire swept through a substance abuse rehabilitation center near the capital, Lima, killing at least 14 people Saturday. Local Peruvian media report that a patient set a mattress on fire at the Sacred Heart of Jesus Clinic in Chosica.  The report has not been confirmed.

Authorities investigating the cause of the blaze say some doors were locked, not allowing people to get out. The facility treats and provides housing for people with drug and alcohol addictions.

The fire is the second deadly blaze at a Peruvian rehabilitation facility for substance abusers this year. A January fire at another facility killed 27 people.

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