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(506) 223-1327        Published Wednesday, May 24, 2006, in Vol. 6, No. 102        E-mail us    
Jo Stuart
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Costa Rica gets half of what it wants from U.S.
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica  has received half of what it seeks from the U.S. White House.

One of two pages that list Costa Rica as a member of the coalition in favor of the war in Iraq no longer carries the name of the country.

However, a second page still lists the country alphabetically as a coalition member.

Both pages contain what is reported to be a March 27, 2003, list of coalition members.

However, a Sala IV constitutional court decision in September 2004 ordered executive branch officials to get the name of the country removed.

Bruno Stagno, the minister of Relaciones Exteriores y Culto, said Tuesday that he wanted the White House page to be "delinked" so that those who go to a search engine like Yahoo will not see Costa Rica listed as a member of the coalition.

The agreement by then-President Abel Pacheco to allow the country to be listed aroused strong passions. Costa Rica prides itself on its pacifist tradition.

Although the change in the White House Web page is nothing like the gaps in the audio tapes maintained by President Richard Nixon, the change does represent an effort to  change history.

Although Internet Web pages are updated easily, making changes in historical documents raises the specter of the novel "1984" by  George Orwell in which the protagonist, Winston Smith, works for the Ministry of Truth doctoring historical

Which White House Web page is correct?

records so that they conform to the politics of the day.

At the White House both Web pages purport to contain a copy of a news release issued March 27, 2003. Each Web site says that 49 countries are members of the coalition. One page lists 49 countries including Costa Rica. One page lists 48 countries and gives no reason what the number does not agree with that given in the header paragraph.

An effort to "delink" the page certainly would run afoul of search engines that maintain cache pages of key sites.

The incoming Óscar Arias Sánchez administration renewed a request to remove the country's name, and a message to that effect was delivered to the U.S. Embassy here last week.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, May 24, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 102

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Sala IV rejects appeal
over same-sex marriages

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Sala IV constitutional court has rejected an appeal that sought to make same-sex marriages legal here.

The Poder Judicial reported the decision Tuesday night. The court let stand an article in the Codigo de Familia or family code that defined marriage as only legal between persons of the opposite sex.
Lawyer Yashín Castrillo Fernández filed the appeal July 29, 2003, and claimed that this provision in the family code conflicted with a principle of equality contained in the Costa Rican Constitution.

The high court vote was 5 to 2. The majority of the magistrates agreed that heterosexual couples are not in the same situation as homosexual couples, according to a summary provided by the Poder Judicial. 

The magistrates also said there was no legal barrier to prevent homosexuals from living together and that the decision rendered specifically referred to the institution of matrimony.
The magistrates also suggested that some legislative remedy should be considered to provide stability and judicial security for homosexual unions.

Emergency commission
to pick up garbage tab

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Emergency officials agreed Tuesday to invest 150 million colons, some $300,000, in the collection of garbage in Tibás to reduce the dangers of dengue.

The board of directors of the Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias also asked the executive branch to declare a state of emergency regarding endangered homes in Río Azul in La Unión. The board wants to work with the Instituto Mixto de Ayuda Social to move some 30 families that are at high risk due to the possiblity of landslides and flooding from the current rainy season.

The 30 families live in an informal settlement, the precario Linda Vista, near the Río Azul sanitary landfill. Last October, a landslide took two lives in that area.

The board also asked the Ministerio de Vivienda or housing to make plans to relocate some 100 additional families that live in the area. Fernando Zumbado, the housing minister, said that such a plan was in the works and relocation might be possible in six months.

The garbage problem in Tibás is long-standing. Sporadic garbage collection has left the municipality deep in bags of garbage, and health officials believe this will contribute to the breeding of mosquitos that carry dengue and the breeding of rats that carry other diseases.

The situation rose to the level of a national problem last week when the municipality asked the emergency panel to allocate the money. An initial 21 million colons came from the Cosejo de Gobierno for immediate action. Officials hope to clean up the garbage within six months.

At least 13 cases of the mosquito-born disease dengue were reported last week by María Luisa Ávila, the minister of Salud. Officials anticipate a rapid rise in cases because the start of the rainy season is dumping water on the Central Valley. Mosquitoes need water to propagate.

Officials fear that an epidemic in the heart of the heavily populated Central Valley will spread rapidly.

Ticos in Germany have
mobile consular service

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

If the people can't go to the consular offices, the consular offices will go to them.

That's the decision of the Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores y Culto, which has created a schedule for a mobile consular office to help out the estimated 5,000 Costa Ricans who will be in Germany next month for the World Cup Soccer match. The idea was presented Tuesday by Bruno Stagno, minister.

Costa Rica will play host Germany in the inaugural match of the World Cup June 9, and consular officials will be available in that location, Munich.

Consular officials will be available in Hamburg June 15 when Costa Rica faces Ecuador and in Hanover June 20 when Costa Rica faces Poland.

In addition to mobile consular services, the various honorary Costa Rican consuls in German cities will be available during the soccer championships, the ministry said.

The details of the consular services in Germany will be made available to Costa Ricans as they leave the country at Juan Santamaría airport, Stagno said.  Consular services include replacing lost passports or making contacts for persons involved in medical emergencies.

Arias will see pope

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Óscar Arias Sánchez will be in Germany for the inaugural World Cup match, but he also will meet with European officials and Pope Benedict, according to the foreign ministry.

Arias will leave June 5 for Switzerland where he will attend a conference of the International Labor Organization. After the June 9 soccer match he will go to Florence where he will attend an exposition of a Costa Rican sculptor.  June 15 he will meet with Italian President Giorgio Napolitano. His audience with Pope Benedict XIV is June 16.
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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, May 24, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 102

Costa Rica total is said to be nine
U.S. says it arrested 565 persons in scam crackdown

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The United States Department of Justice is claiming it has arrested 565 persons in a massive global attack against fraud called Operation Global Con.

The department said there were 2.8 million victims and losses of $1 billion.

This was the core of a press conference in Washington, D.C., Tuesday in which U.S. Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales was joined by Francisco Dall'Anese Ruiz, the fiscal general or chief prosecutor of Costa Rica.

The Justice Department said nine of the reported arrested were in Costa Rica.

Operation Global Con targeted international mass-marketing schemes, the department said. These criminals used telemarketing, the Internet, and mass mailings, to cheat unsuspecting people through bogus investments, fake lotteries and sweepstakes schemes, phony credit cards, and tax frauds, said a release.

The arrest totals seem to be from actions that the department and other law enforcement agencies took over the last 15 months. Costa Rican law enforcement officials made 17 raids and captured five persons May 16 when they acted to break up a fake lottery scam that preyed on elderly U.S. citizens via telemarketing-style call centers.

The identity of the other four reported to have been arrested here was not clear.

The department said that 129 raids in Canada resulted in 96 arrests. In Spain 176 raids resulted in 310 arrests, and in the Netherlands nine raids resulted in 11 arrests. In the United States there were 116 raids with 139 arrests, the department said.

In addition to fake lotteries where the "winners" were asked to pay up to 1 percent in "taxes,"  "insurance" and "fees." the Justice department identified these other scams that were targeted during the last 15 months:

• “419" advance-fee fraud schemes. In these types of schemes, prospective victims typically receive e-mails, faxes, or letters that promise the recipients large amounts of money – for example, as funds from a large estate or as lottery winnings. These schemes often make use of counterfeit documents that purport to come from legitimate companies or government agencies.

These schemes are known informally as “419" fraud schemes because the organizers of the schemes are often associated with West African criminal groups and the number “419" refers to section 419 of the Nigerian Criminal Code.
• Advance-fee loan or credit-card schemes. In these types of schemes, criminals identify individuals who have bad credit or other difficulties in obtaining loans or credit cards from legitimate financial institutions, either by placing advertisements to solicit people’s calls to a telemarketing call center or by buying lists of people believed to have poor credit. Participants in the schemes then call the prospective victims and promise loans or credit cards, but demand an advance-fee payment — sometimes in amounts ranging from $99 to $400 or more — from the victims and then provide no loans or cards.

• Investment schemes. In these types of schemes, criminals offer prospective investors investment opportunities that purport to have rates of return far higher than legitimate companies and financial institutions can offer. The investment opportunities are often described in highly complex terms. In fact, the criminals behind the schemes either do not pay any funds to investors or conduct a “Ponzi” scheme.

• Business-directory schemes. In these types of schemes, the criminals telephone legitimate businesses and falsely represent that they are with a legitimate company that publishes business directories. They typically deceive the legitimate businesses into believing that they are simply renewing or continuing supposedly preexisting listings in these directories, or are simply confirming a shipping address. In either case, the legitimate businesses are then charged fees for nonexistent directory listings.

• “Phishing” schemes. In connection with other fraud schemes, some criminals engage in “phishing”- the use
of e-mails and Web sites, designed to look like those of legitimate companies, financial institutions, or government agencies, to persuade people to disclose valuable personal data, such as their online usernames and passwords, bank and financial accounts numbers, and Social Security numbers.

The Justice Department gave some examples of actual cases. But even in a five-page fact sheet it did not address the nature of the 310 arrests in Spain. It did say that two cases were handled by the Postal Inspection Service and 20 were civil cases handled by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission. Five persons who operate a business selling coffee routes to investors in the United States from Escazú and La Sabana have been the target of a Federal Trade Commission civil action. These may be the additional people referred to in the statement by the Justice Department and called in error "arrests."

The Department of Justice added that the operation's success in targeting telemarketing fraud depended heavily on the creation of long-term partnerships with foreign law enforcement agencies and cited the critical role that Costa Rican officials played in the recent arrest of alleged participants in sweepstakes schemes.

Funeral services will be this morning for businessman killed in Ecuador
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Graveside services for businessman Pat Dunn will be at 10 a.m. today in the Cementerio de Tibás north of San José, the family reported Tuesday.

Dunn, a well-known operator of expat bars in Costa Rica, died at the hands of robbers May 18 in Manta, Ecuador. He was developing a bar there.

The time of the funeral had not been fixed earlier due
to the uncertainty of transporting the body here.  He is survived by his wife, Elvia Jahara Jarquin Tellez, and a daughter, Jennifer Dunn. The family conducted a wake Tuesday night near the Posada Amón operated by Ms. Jarquin.

The family has set up a mailing address in the United States for those friends who wish to send sympathy cards or donations. The address is Dunn Family, Interlink #514, P.O. Box 02-5635, Miami, Fla., 33102-5635

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, May 24, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 102

Summit on jobs, information planned for June 2 & 3
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Business leaders from the Western Hemisphere will meet June 2 and 3 in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, to discuss ways to create more jobs, strengthen competitiveness and improve access to information technology in the region.

The private-sector forum will precede the June 4 and 6 assembly in Santo Domingo of the hemisphere's foreign ministers, which is hosted by the Organization of American States.

Costa Rica will be presented at the business forum, perhaps represented by President Óscar Arias Sánchez. Other presidents also will attend what appears to be a discussion with an empahsis on energy. "One topic is the location and the financing for a possible Central American petroleum refinery.

The private-sector forum will focus on the theme "Inter-American Public-Private Partnership for Competitiveness and Job Creation in the Knowledge Society," said the the Organization of American States, one of the organizers of the forum.  The formal host for the event is a private sector national business association in the Dominican Republic called the National Council of Private Enterprise.

Working with that council and doing logistical support for the event is a business association called the American Chamber of Commerce of the Dominican Republic.

William Malamud, the chamber's executive vice president, said in an interview that the Santo Domingo forum is expected to attract about 300 business leaders from the region.  Other listed participants for the event from the U.S. government are Walter Bastian, the Department of Commerce deputy assistant secretary for the Western Hemisphere, and John Simon, executive vice president for the Overseas Private Investment Corporation.  Dominican Republic President Leonel Fernández is scheduled to give a keynote speech to wind up the forum June 3.

Malamud said the forum will focus on how to help the private sector in Latin America and the Caribbean compete in the global economy, particularly in the U.S. market, against Asia and Europe.  The United States is Latin America's principal market, said Malamud, whose organization is affiliated with the Washington-based U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
The forum will address three principal elements, Malamud said.  The first element, he said, includes the need for "greater transparency and the rule of law" in the business world, meaning the "rules of the game for doing business" at the government and private-sector levels.

A second element, Malamud said, involves the "ability to absorb and take advantage of information communications technology at the private and public sectors to make information more transparent."

A third element, he said, is what the public and private sectors can do to promote an educated work force in Latin America that is ready to compete in the global business world.  He called promoting such a work force a challenge that is "particularly acute in Latin America vis-à-vis other parts of the world."

Other invited participants at the business forum include Vinton Cerf, vice-president of the California-based Google Corp., which provides an Internet search engine for finding information.

The Organization of American States quoted Cerf as stressing the importance of making information technology part of the inter-American agenda, citing what he said was technology's enormous potential for increasing the gross domestic product of Western Hemisphere nations.

The Dominican Republic is hosting the General Assembly of the Organization of American States for the first time, with that event's theme "good governance and development in the knowledge-based society." 

According to a draft declaration for the General Assembly, the intensive use of knowledge and of information and communication technologies can be used "to strengthen good governance and bring about equitable and sustainable development in the Americas."

Foreign ministers from the United States and the 33 other members of the OAS will participate in the General Assembly.  The United States hosted the previous General Assembly in June 2005 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. 

The region's foreign ministers also will meet June 4 in Santo Domingo with representatives of nongovernmental organizations.

Doubling Panamá Canal promoted in Washington by nation's vp
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Expanding the Panamá Canal would benefit Panamá and the entire Western Hemisphere, a Panamanian official has told the Organization of American States.

Speaking to the inter-American body, Samuel Lewis, Panama's vice president and minister of foreign affairs, said the proposed expansion project — which includes the construction of a third set of locks — would enable his country "to urgently overcome the extreme poverty and the most striking inequalities faced by too many Panamanians, and can help take us towards higher levels of development and well-being."

Lewis said that under Panama's Constitution, citizens of his nation must give their approval in a referendum for such a project to become a reality.  The existing canal, first completed by the United States in 1914, is deemed too small to handle contemporary shipping needs.

The United States is the world’s No. 1 user of the canal.  About one-third of global shipping passes through the canal's waters.

The U.S. Ambassador to Panamá, William Eaton, on Panamanian television, cited the importance of the canal to Panama’s future and said it is a decision for the Panamanian people through referendum to decide whether they will seek modernization of the canal.   

The expansion proposal includes the construction of new locks on both the Atlantic and Pacific sides of the canal, Lewis said.  He added that the work "will not at any time interrupt the operation of the canal," but cautioned that the "future project must combine the interests of the Panamanian people with the realities and needs of global commerce."

The proposed expansion would enable the canal to handle almost twice the current volume of cargo and
would speed the movement of ships that now must wait in long lines at the entrances of the canal, he said.

"If we do not face the challenge of expanding the canal and improving its traffic capacity, so we can continue to provide an efficient, competitive service, other alternatives will inevitably arise that may imply a competitive pressure on the canal," Lewis warned.

According to news reports, Panama is concerned that without expansion of the canal, a competing project might be built in Central America or Mexico, or that the canal would become just a "regional" waterway.  The expansion project would be an expensive undertaking, according to news reports, requiring 10,000 workers and taking 10 years to finish.

Environmental groups have expressed concern about expanding the canal, saying such a massive project would harm ecosystems, displace thousands of peasant farmers and require too much water.

José Miguel Insulza, secretary general of the Organization of American States, recalled that the Torrijos-Carter Accords, which turned over sovereignty of the canal from the United States to Panamá, were signed in 1977 at his organization's headquarters in Washington.

The accords guaranteed that Panama would gain control of the Panama Canal after 1999, ending the control of the canal that the U.S. had exercised since 1903. The treaties are named after the two signatories, former U.S. president Jimmy Carter and Panama's former leader, Omar Torrijos.  The canal was built to shorten significantly the distance ships needed to travel around the Americas.

"Panamá has been at the heart of the Americas because its canal is the largest engineering feat in the hemisphere," Insulza said.

Jo Stuart
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