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(506) 223-1327       Published Tuesday, May 23, 2006, in Vol. 6, No. 101        E-mail us    
Jo Stuart
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Top cops in D.C. for work against fraud here
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two top law enforcement officials will be in Washington, D.C., today for a session with the U.S. attorney general.

The reason given locally for the trip is so that Costa Rican officials can accept praise at a press conference because of their participation a week ago in the arrest for five persons here suspected of running a fake lottery scheme by telephone targeting U.S. citizens.

Francisco Dall'Anese Ruiz, the fiscal general or the nation's top prosecutor, and Jorge Rojas Vargas, director of the Judicial Investigating Organization, are the two men who will be in Washington, according to a note from the Poder Judicial.

U.,S. Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzalez is expected to lead the press conference to discuss what the U.S. Justice Department is calling Operation Global Con, a multinational effort to combat fraud in the marketplace.

Officials here said the fake lottery operation took in $20 million dollars. Some 17 raids were conducted May 16, 10 of them in San José. The locations include homes serving as call centers and residences.  Three U.S. citizens were arrested, as were two Canadians, More than 200 Costa Ricans worked in the call centers. They pretended that the persons they called, mostly the elderly, had won a lottery and encouraged them to send money here for "taxes" and "fees."

The raids here were directed by Dall'Anese and Rojas.

The collaboration with Costa Rica could be the start of additional efforts to stamp out
scammers here as well as target the online betting business.

Last week in Washington, the U.S. District Court unsealed an indictment against three individuals and two firms, Soulbury Ltd. and WorldWide Telesports, Inc., alleging the laundering of an estimated $250 million worth of Internet gambling wagers,

The justice Department said the indictment underscores its commitment to attacking illegal Internet gambling concerns by using federal anti-money laundering laws.

The defendants and their business BetWWTS.com is regulated by the Gaming Commission of Antigua and Barbuda. They do exactly what sportsbooks in Costa Rica do.

The Justice Department said the firm accepted bets in Antigua from the United States on sports events. "Soliciting such wagers over the Internet violates the Wire and Travel Acts," said the department. "The indictment also alleges that by causing funds to be sent from places within the United States to places abroad with the intent to promote Wire and Travel Act violations, [the defendants] engaged in a money-laundering conspiracy."

Money-laundering allegations have a stronger bite than gambling allegations because gambling is legal in many places outside the United States. Money laundering allegations allow U.S. officials to freeze foreign bank accounts.

In addition, money laundering allegations allow the United States to extradite suspects, because the charge is considered a crime nearly everywhere. Countries will not extradite suspects if the allegation is not a crime in the host country.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, May 23, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 101

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Tourist dies in crash
with San José-bound bus

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A U.S. tourist from Florida died in a collision between his vehicle and a bus near the Pacific coast community of Parrita about 8:30 a.m. Monday.

He was one of five persons to die in traffic accidents in a 12-hour period.

The tourist was Terry Lee Kincer, said the Judicial Investigating Organization. Kincer was alone in his vehicle when it somehow collided with the side of a bus bound from Quepos to San José, agents said.

The tourist's vehicle careened off the road into a ditch.

Just three hours previous, at 5:30 a.m., three persons died near Siquirres when their vehicle collided head-on with a tractor-trailer. The dead were identified as Katherin Mileidy Cordero Martínez, 25, the driver of the vehicle; Elier Emilio Victor Jaen, 26, and Carlos Armando Peace Jiménez, 32. All lived in Barrio Laurel de Siquirres, said the Judicial Investigating Organization.

The truck driver, identified by the last names of Valverde Naranjo, was injured, He is 28.

Agents said that a light rain might have been a factor in the crash.

Sunday night about 10 p.m. a 20-year-old woman, María López González, died when she was hit by a car as she crossed a street in San Antonio de Belén.

Petroleum firm director
resigns under pressure

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Arias administration has suffered its first casualty.

Samuel Schactel Cawer, a businessman who was sworn in last week to the board of directors of the country's petroleum monopoly, has resigned under pressure.

The minister of the Presidencia, Rodrigo Arias Sánchez, asked for the resignation when the Partido Acción Cuidadana announced that Schactel had a full administrative power of a company that was in arrears with the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social.

The new board of directors of the Refinadora Costarricense de Petróleo was sworn in May 17. Among them was Schactel. The issue came up in the Asamblea Legislative, and the man's resignation was announced almost immediately.

Schactel was quoted as saying that the company involved has been in a form of bankruptcy for years and he had no authority there but that he resigned for the sake of the Óscar Arias administration.

Sewerage project
ready for legislature

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The head of the Instituto Costarricense de Acueductos y Alcantarillados delivered a legislative proposal to Casa Presidencial Monday that would advance plans to give the Central Valley a modern sewer system by 2025.

The project is being supported by a $127 million loan from the Japanese overseas aid agency with flexible terms of repayment.

The water and sewer company executive president, Ricardo Sancho, said that the project has been awaited for 20 years. Included is a proposal for a sewer treatment plant by 2013. Now raw sewage from the Central Valley finds itself to the Río Tarcoles via several routes and then into the Gulf of Nicoya.

The existing pipes are worn and rusted out in many places.

Legislative liaisons at Casa Presidencial will fit the measure into the executive branch's priorities for the Asamblea Legislativa.

Intel and Microsoft join
to push Third World PCs

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Intel Corp. and Microsoft Corp. have announced that the companies will collaborate to engineer and deliver flexible, pay-as-you-go PC purchasing models for consumers in emerging markets. Intel’s support of Microsoft FlexGo technology is a key part of Intel’s broad World Ahead program to help speed access to technology and education for people in developing regions around the world, the company said.

The collaboration between Microsoft and Intel to implement FlexGo technology is another example of the  joint activities the two companies have taken on in emerging markets. Intel, the world's largest chip manufacturer, has production facilities in Costa Rica.

The pay-as-you-go model enabled by FlexGo makes PCs more accessible by reducing the initial cost and enabling customers to pay for computers through subscriptions or as they use them, through the purchase of prepaid activation cards or tokens. Intel will provide support for the FlexGo capability initially on Intel’s Discover the PC platforms tailored for people in developing regions,  such as the recently introduced Intel-powered Community PC in India.

New Peace Corps volunteers

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Some 16 new Peace Corps volunteers took their oath here Friday. They will join 60 colleagues at work in rural areas in Guanacaste, Limón, Alajuela and Puntarenas. They serve for two years. The new volunteers will be working with the Dirección Nacional de Desarrollo de la Comunidad to promote community development.
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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, May 23, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 101

Daniel Gallardo and  staffers visit a bridge at Suretka built by commission funds

Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias photo

Pre-hurricane season inspection for Limón area
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

In the face of a predicted tough hurricane season, national emergency commission members toured the Provincia de Limón over the weekend to inspect reconstruction work and preparations for the rainy season.

Daniel Gallaro, commission president, led a contingent that visited some of the more vulnerable places on the Caribbean coast, including Sixaola, which was wiped out last year. Dikes at Matina and Estrada were among the tour highlights as well as bridges constructed in Suretka.

The Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias also hopes to enter into an agreement with the Junta de Administración Portuaria y de Desarrollo de la Vertiente Atlántica for a storage facility and a regional command post.
During the last few years, the commission has invested some 3.1 billion colons, perhaps as much as $8 million to repairing roads, dikes, bridges and houses. Still residents of the Sixaola area complain that they have not received the help they were promised after their town was inundated Jan. 9 and 10, 2005.

Another goal of the visit was to encourage local emergency commissions to act independently so that they need not await word from San José during a disaster, the commission reported.

Atlantic storms generate heavy downpours that cause Caribbean slope rivers to rage out of their banks. Many homes are constructed in what could be considered a flood plain, so rising water is frequent in the area. The hurricanes that brushed Costa Rica last year caused extensive devastation of infrastructure, including some new roads in the Talamanca region .

Weather experts predict a very active season for 2006
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Meteorology experts expect a very active hurricane season in 2006, officials of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced Monday as they encouraged individuals to prepare to protect themselves and their families.

Hurricane season is June 1 through Nov.30 every year. On average, the north Atlantic hurricane season produces 11 named storms, with six becoming hurricanes, including two major hurricanes.

"For the 2006 north Atlantic hurricane season,” Conrad Lautenbacher said during a news conference in Miami, “NOAA is predicting 13 to 16 named storms, with eight to 10 becoming hurricanes, of which four to six could become major hurricanes of Category 3 strength or higher." He is the administrator of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

In 2005, the Atlantic hurricane season produced a record 28 storms, including 15 hurricanes. Seven of these hurricanes were considered major, and four hit the United States, a record number.

Although hurricanes do not hit Costa Rica, the storms generate strong rains that can cause heavy local and regional flooding.

His agency is not forecasting a repeat of the 2005
season, Lautenbacher added, but “the potential for hurricanes striking the U.S. is high.”

Warm water is the energy source for storms, and favorable wind patterns limit the wind shear that can tear apart a storm's building cloud structure.

This confluence of conditions in the ocean and atmosphere is strongly related to a climate pattern called the multidecadal signal, which has been in place since 1995.

Since then, nine of the last 11 hurricane seasons have been above normal, with only two below-normal seasons during the El Niño years of 1997 and 2002.

“History shows that this signal produces active hurricane eras that can last 25 to 40 years,” Lautenbacher said.

Since the 2005 hurricane season, the agency has been working to make sure its damaged facilities are repaired and its emergency consumables are restocked, Bandwidth has been increased for its Web site where many people go for hurricane information during storms.

A new state-of-the-art weather facility in Florida will enhance the agency's ability to capture and analyze satellite data, and a new soon-to-be-launched geostationary satellite will provide more accurate and reliable storm measurements.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, May 23, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 101

Gang violence in Central America is threat to security, U.S. report says
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Youth gangs in Central America and Mexico are a serious challenge to democracy, according to the U.S. Agency for International Development.

The agency just completed an eight-month study of the problem with a particular focus on El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico and Nicaragua.

The assessment aimed to understand the underlying problems contributing to gang membership, to analyze the transnational characteristics of the gangs and to propose ways the United States can reach at-risk youth, the agency said in a news release. The agency noted that there was an increase in accounts of gang-related violence across Central America and the United States in 2005.

Over an eight-month period, the agency worked with partners in each of the five assessment countries to collect data through interviews with a wide range of people, including government officials and representatives of civil society, the media, the private sector, and faith-based groups, as well as U.S. government officials and current and former gang members.

Among the report's key findings:

•  Marginalized urban areas are the breeding grounds of gang activity.  Fueling the problem in these areas are high levels of youth unemployment, compounded by inadequate access to education and economic opportunities, family disintegration and intra-familial violence, easy access to drugs and small arms, and
overwhelmed and ineffective justice systems that include prisons which serve as gang training camps.

•  A combination of prevention, intervention, and law enforcement approaches are needed to halt the spread of gang violence over the long term.  Thus far, countries have largely responded by stepping up law enforcement efforts, with much less attention paid to prevention and intervention.  This imbalanced approach has not succeeded, judging by the fact that crime levels have not diminished.

•  The agency, in collaboration with other partners at home and abroad, is uniquely positioned to address the gang problem by supporting policies and community-based programs that address the root causes of youth gang proliferation and that unite the prevention, intervention, and law enforcement dimensions.

Costa Rica, which does host some gang members, was not studied in the assessment. Adjacent Nicaragua has a minor, largely localized gang problem with no international  gangs, said the report. An anti-gang law was considered but not adopted. Nicaragua emphasizes prevention and intervention approaches integrated with law enforcement, it said.

Gang activity in Central America and Mexico is a sophisticated form of violence and an increasing threat to security in the region, the report said. Since the end of the 1980s period of armed conflict, gang violence has evolved from a localized, purely neighborhood-based security concern into a transnational problem that pervades urban enclaves in every country in the region, it added.

German World Cup security freeze out hooligans with training, cameras
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Security issues always play a role at major sporting events and that is no different for next month's World Cup football finals in Germany.

The month-long quadrennial World Cup is set to kick-off on June 9 with Costa Rica facing Germany in the inaugural game. But many of the security arrangements for football's most prestigious event are already in place and have even been tested. Germany hosted the eight-nation Confederations Cup football tournament last year and most security measures that will be used for the 32-nation World Cup went through a successful dry run.

According to Germany's Ministry of the Interior, which is coordinating all the security efforts, there will be an estimated 3.2 million spectators for the World Cup, with one million coming from outside the country. All will want to feel safe, as will the team delegations, the thousands of accredited journalists, and the local citizens who will be mingling with the visitors throughout the country during the month-long tournament.

Previously violent fans were registered on police data banks and were not able to purchase tickets for the matches. And with two layers of fencing ringing the stadiums and visible police presence, World Cup security official Willy Kosling said that fans with tickets should not have to worry about hooliganism.
"It's not a problem coming up to the stadiums," said Willy Kosling. "The stadiums should be very safe. The security is on a very high level there. They [hooligans] don't have any chance, we think, to come into the stadiums. If they are violent, they are well known. We have policemen who know the violent part of the fans, and so it's very difficult for them to come in."

In addition, Kosling says video cameras that will constantly be monitored will also aid in security efforts.

"You have complete video surveillance in the stadium and you have the possibility to have video surveillance outside in special task police cars," he said. "That's necessary."

And the likelihood of World Cup tickets falling into the wrong hands has been made almost impossible, because for the first time all the tickets sold are personalized, so only the buyer and his guests can get through the control points with a valid identification.

Kosling says German officials acknowledge that public viewing areas of the matches on large video screens in many locations throughout the country will not be as secure as being in one of the stadiums.

"We are well prepared for that danger, I must say," noted Kosling. "We have many policemen prepared for these situations and it's where many policemen will be located at these main points.

Jo Stuart
About us

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