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(506) 2223-1327                       Published Thursday, May 24, 2012, in Vol. 12, No. 103                           Email us
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Non-U.S. friends will be welcome at July 4 picnic
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

U.S citizens who attend the July 4 bash at the beer company grounds will be able to bring a non-U.S. friend.

A member of the American Colony Committee board of directors confirmed this Wednesday. The committee sponsors the picnic.

A.M. Costa Rica reported May 3 that the picnic once again will be held at the Cervercería Costa Rica picnic grounds west of San José.

The decision by the committee to admit non-U.S. citizens is a major change from past years. Until now those who attended had to be U.S. citizens with passports or be close relatives of citizens.
Naturally, some expats were irked by this rule, and some U.S. citizens did not attend because they thought that their boy or girl friend or non-U.S. business associate would be denied entry.

Expat workers at the gate were much more flexible than the written rules, but the bar to non-U.S. citizens generated some ill will over the years.

The members of the committee had argued that the picnic would be flooded by persons simply seeking free beer and hot dogs.

Now there is a small entry fee, and the requirement that a non-U.S. citizen be accompanied by an American is expected to keep that from happening. Much of the food and drink is donated.

The time this year is from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Last year the committee joined with Avenida Escazú, the shopping center, to hold the event in the afternoon. But heavy rains dampened the event and cut attendance.


picnic visitors

The picnic has grown over more than 50 years from a U.S. expat gathering at the home of the U.S. ambassador, to the present event that draws thousands. This picnic will be the 52nd organized by the committee, it said.

The picnic was designed to provide the children of U.S. expats with a real July 4 celebration. Children still are a priority with games and rides in previous years.
The Cervercería grounds west of San José contains a large field for all types of games. Usually service clubs, the U.S. Embassy and veteran groups set up informational booths for visitors.

The committee Web site is about to be updated with information for this year. The committee also is seeking donations from expats, local businesses and others to help support the event.


Lawmakers move to make Caja debts eternal
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

In addition to death and taxes, debts to the Caja Costarricense will be inevitable, if the legislature passes a bill that has been released for action.

The bill is No. 17.954, and it comes in the wake of revelations of companies and even sports teams that owe large amounts of money to the struggling Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social.

A special legislative Comisión de la Caja reported out the bill Wednesday. The bill says that monies employers owe to the Caja for social security charges will be imprescriptibles, meaning that they will not be extinguished by the lapse of time.

There also is a provision that says the Caja must be vigorous in seeking this money.
Involved are the payments employees and employers make for illness, pregnancy, old age, death and disabilities.

When times are tight, companies frequently fall way behind on their payments.

Since part of the money comes from an employee's salary, not paying the Caja also means employers take money that does not belong to them. Payments typically are made each month based on the employee salaries of the previous month.

The bill reinforces a section of the Costa Rican Constitution that basically says the same thing. But the bill outlines penal and procedural steps. Although not yet approved by the full legislature, it would appear that Caja charges would have a high priority if a business went bankrupt.

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Lawmakers establish agenda
of priority bills to study


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Heads of the political parties in the Asamblea Legislativa have established priorities for their agenda.

There are 18 bills that will receive discussion and possible votes.

Among these are the revisions in the nation's traffic law. The revision of the alcohol law that received an initial favorable vote Tuesday also is on the list.

Two bills to beef up tax collection are there, too, as well as a law that addresses trafficking in persons and related activities.

An amendment to the criminal code is contained in another bill that defines computer crimes and identity theft.

Proposed laws addressing money laundering, casino licensing and the plight of persons living in the nation's maritime zone also are on the agenda. One proposed law gives greater power to sign language.

Another proposed law that is on the priority list would create a data base of car guards, those individuals who purport to keep their eyes on parked vehicles while the operator conducts business in downtown areas.


Nation's chief prosecutor says
corruption cases flood office

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Jorge Chavarría Guzmán, the nation's chief prosecutor, said Wednesday that he is worried that the increasing quantity of corruption cases are taxing his agency's ability to handle them.

He said that there are eight prosecutors in the anti-corruption section and that each has an average of 33 complex cases.

He is seeking more slots over and above those provided for in the current budget. He said this would enable the section to attack corruption in the coastal zones, municipalities and in state agencies.

The nation's prosecutorial agency, the Ministerio Público, has had a run of corruption cases this year. Among them are allegations of payoffs in construction of the new Ruta 1856 along the Río San Juan at the country's northern border and cases against mayors in  Coronado, Mora, Atenas, Alajuela, Bribrí, Jacó, Osa and Golfito, said Chavarría in a statement released by the Poder Judicial.


 
Find out what the papers
said today in Spanish


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!
From the Costa Rican press
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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, May 24, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 103
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Watson may seek to make a deal with aggrieved fishermen
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

There were demonstrations supporting conservationist Paul Watson in Paris and Berlin Wednesday as his Sea Shepherd
Conservation Society promised.

Watson was present in Berlin. The event took place just several blocks where Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla was meeting with German officials. There was no indication that she met with Watson or associates.

There are indications that Watson will attempt to use the conciliation aspects of Costa Rican law to avoid jail. The law allows anyone who is a suspect in a crime to pay off accusers. Recently a Canadian motorist who had been extradited
Watson mug shot
Paul Watson
from the United States ducked a criminal charge when he paid off the family of the highway worker he hit and killed.

Another well-publicized case is that of Luis Milanes, the operator of the defunct Savings Unlimited that collapsed in 2002 with about $200 million of investors money. He has struck a deal with those bringing allegations against him that involves surrendering property, including a downtown hotel. 
His creditors have agreed that the criminal case be terminated.

Watson faces allegations stemming from the 2002 run-in with a Costa Rican fishing boat in Guatemalan waters. The fishing boat and Watson's much larger “Ocean Warrior” bumped together, and Costa Rican prosecutors have brought allegations of interfering with sea traffic. The fishing boat crew claims injuries and damage to the vessel.

Watson has been in contact with Costa Rican foreign ministry officials. Earlier he expressed the fear that the so-called shark finning mafia would attempt to have him killed when he went to prison here. Watson has fought vigorously against shark finning and the Japanese practice of hunting whales.

If he can strike a deal long-distance, he would be able to spend little or no time in jail if he returned to Costa Rica. Milanes spent just a night in judicial facilities.

Sea Shepherd has been trying to raise money to support a fight against extradition in Germany. The demonstrations Wednesday basically sought to have Germany void Costa Rica's request for extradition. That is legally possible in the country's justice ministry.

For an unknown reason the usually active Sea Shepherd Web site made no mention late Wednesday of the demonstrations in Europe.


Paul Watson cannot rely on promises by the executive branch
By Jay Brodell
editor of A.M. Costa Rica

Paul Watson, the aggressive conservationist, is being asked to accept Costa Rica justice and return here to face allegations that he attempted to sink a Costa Rican fishing boat in Guatemalan waters.

Watson is being assured by high government officials that he will receive a fair deal here. Watson should be made aware that the Costa Rican judicial system is seriously flawed.

Watson could contact Sheldon Hazeltine, who has been in the courts for 16 years fighting to hold on to a piece of property in the central Pacific coast. Hazeltine has been acquitted twice of an apparently bogus allegation of falsifying a document. Even the prosecutor backed Hazeltine. But both times an appeals judge has voided the acquittal and remanded the case for another trial on minor technicalities.

An analysis of the news

Of course, sometimes the justice system here can be lenient. Watson should know about Eliseo Vargas, the former deputy and head of the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social. Vargas has been convicted three times of playing fast and loose with public money. The last conviction was Monday. But he still is free. Or he could talk to two ex-presidents who were involved with Vargas and who still are free.

Watson could contact editors at A.M. Costa Rica who were dragged through a criminal court for more than a year on a bogus charge leveled by a man who was a fugitive in Panamá. Costa Rican courts appear to be unable to throw out bogus cases before trial.

In addition, there does not seem to be any penalty exacted for lying in court. Watson runs the risk of facing a fabricated case without any recourse, as does anyone else here.
Then there is the problem of preventative detention. Foreigners get the full treatment. A bar owner in Playas del Coco was faced with a man threatening him with a knife. The police came and took away the man, but for some unexplained reason released him a few hours later. The man announced to police that he was going to return and kill the Canadian bar owner. When he tried to do so, the bar operator shot him dead in front of witnesses.

All corroborated the bar owner's story. Judges still sent the bar owner to prison for more than a year awaiting trial. He probably would have been convicted except prosecutors knew newspeople were watching. The bar owner, Roger Crouse, lost all he had while jailed.

Watson said he fears that he would be killed if he returned to Costa Rica. Supporters said that the shark-finning mafia have designs on his life. If may be that the fishermen involved in his high seas confrontation just want money. A curious aspect of Costa Rican law is that criminal charges can go away for a price. For example, Luis Milanes, the casino owner, fled, returned and then bought his way out of an allegation that he defrauded hundreds of investors to the tune of $200 million. He paid off and is paying off at the rate of a few cents on the dollar.

Luis Enrique Villalobos, the Costa Rican who handled about $1 billion in investor money, fled a fraud charge more than 10 years ago rather than face Costa Rican justice.

The International Police Agency lists 73 persons who chose to flee instead of face Costa Rican justice. There are 13 who are suspects in crimes against life, as INTERPOL puts it. The Poder Judicial also has released a list of persons who are wanted as criminal suspects here.

Both the foreign ministry and Casa Presidencial have made a point to distance themselves from the Paul Watson case. The judicial is independent, they said. That's true, and it means that whatever promise elected officials or executive branch officials make to Watson about getting justice do not bind the courts.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, May 24, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 103
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INTERPOL outlines extent of kiddieporn ring with link here
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

A global operation targeting individuals using social networking groups to exchange child abuse material has targeted 55 key suspects in 20 countries. The operation saw 12 children identified and removed from harm and a number of suspects arrested, said the International Police Agency.

An Alajuela man has been detained in the investigations by local agents.

Code named Laminar, the operation began in October 2010 as a covert online investigation by New Zealand’s Department of Internal Affairs Censorship Compliance Unit which alerted INTERPOL’s Crimes Against Children team after identifying significant amounts of abusive and exploitative pictures being exchanged via social network sites, including Facebook, Socialgo, and grou.ps, and alerted international law enforcement agencies, INTERPOL said.

Working with the Child Exploitation Investigations unit of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations with assistance from the Department of Justice’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity section, the investigation coordinated led to the identification of nearly 80 groups engaged in the display or distribution of previously seen and unseen child sexual abuse images, said INTERPOL. The investigation was conducted with the support and assistance of Facebook officials following the identification of key targets and their associated groups within their network.

Maarten Quivooy, general manager of New Zealand’s Regulatory Compliance Operations, said the Internet had destroyed jurisdictional boundaries and that protecting children was a global responsibility to which his department was  committed.

“Trading in, or viewing these images is active offending because it involves real children often being abused both in real time and over time, and when these images of children being sexually abused are released onto the Internet, they live on forever,” said Quivooy.

“No crime impacts on us as society and as parents more deeply
than the abuse of innocent children by the people they should
be able to trust above all others. Terms such as kiddiporn and child pornography make the physical sexual abuse of a child appear consenting. No child is capable of consenting to sexual activity —therefore all sexual depiction of children is abuse,” he concluded.

Mick Moran, head of INTERPOL's crimes against children section, said the operation once again demonstrated the need for international cooperation.

“It is said that the Internet has no boundaries, but that does not mean that laws do not apply, that people committing offenses online will not be identified. There is no safe environment or anonymous area for individuals who think that they can trade and publish child abuse images online, as proved once again by this operation which should serve as a warning to others – you will be caught,” said Moran.

“While disrupting these networks is a significant part of the investigation, what is more important is that innocent children and in some cases babies have been rescued from physical abuse,” added Moran.

“Operation Laminar demonstrates that when governments team up to attack the global distribution of images of child sexual abuse the success is real,” said John Morton, director of  U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“ICE will continue to work tirelessly with our international law enforcement partners to protect children wherever they live and to bring justice to criminals wherever they operate.”

The 55 key targets in Operation Laminar were identified as individuals who had actively created groups which distributed abusive material, posted images of infants under the age of 13 being abused, and had actively encouraged the sexual abuse of children through comments or video and photo postings.

In addition to Costa Rica, the 20 countries with identified targets are Australia, Bosnia, Brazil, Chile, England, Finland, France, Germany, Indonesia, Italy, Mexico, Norway, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, The Netherlands, Tunisia, Turkey, the United States and Venezuela.


Warmer temperatures may mean more droughts, study says
By the National Science Foundation news service

Warming climate may mean less rainfall for drought-sensitive regions of the Southern Hemisphere, according to results just published by an international research team.

Geoscientist Curt Stager of Paul Smith's College in Paul Smiths, N.Y., and colleagues found that rainfall in South Africa during the last 1,400 years was affected by temperature with more rain falling during cool periods and less during warm ones.

The findings, published in the journal Climate of the Past, are supported by the National Science Foundation.

"The link between climate change and rainfall in certain latitudes can have large effects on ecosystems," said Paul Filmer, program officer in foundation's Directorate for Geosciences.
"Plants, for example, may be able to grow in a wider area, or conversely, be squeezed up a mountain or onto a peninsula.
When the affected ecosystem supports a food crop, that can mean a bonanza — or a famine."

Theoretical climate models have shown that global warming could push storm tracks southward "and away from the mainlands of southern Africa, South America and Australia," said Stager.

"This research supports those predictions of increasing aridity, which could lead to major problems for societies and ecosystems in these already-arid places."

A poleward shift in winds could also affect the flow of marine currents around the tip of Africa, changing air and water temperatures farther afield, including in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans.

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Committee puts off vote
on treaty covering oceans


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The Obama administration says the United States should join a global maritime treaty known as the Law of the Sea Convention. The convention has bipartisan support on Capitol Hill but is unlikely to advance before the November general election.
 
More than 160 nations belong to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which governs how nations may use the world's oceans and the resources they contain.  All major industrialized nations have ratified the treaty except the United States.  The Obama administration wants to change that, and dispatched Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to Capitol Hill to argue for U.S. accession before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Before either could speak, John Kerry, committee chairman, made an announcement. "I would like to see this treaty stay out of the hurly-burly of presidential politics.  So, heeding that advice, I announce today that I do not currently intend to bring the treaty to a vote before the November elections," he said.

Kerry nevertheless urged ratification. "Ratifying the treaty will lock in the favorable navigational rights that our military and shipping interests depend on every single day.  It will strengthen our hand against China and others who stake out claims in the Pacific, the Arctic, or elsewhere.  It will give our oil and gas companies the certainty that they need to make crucial investments to secure our energy future.  And it will help secure access to rare earth minerals which we need for weapons systems, computers, cell phones, and the like," he said.

Secretary of State Clinton echoed that view. "If we do not join the convention, our companies will miss out on opportunities to explore vast areas of continental shelf and deep seabed.  If we do join the convention, we unlock economic opportunities worth potentially hundreds of billions of dollars," she said.

Defense Secretary Panetta argued that adhering to international conventions strengthens America's moral authority when it comes to pressuring other states to do likewise.

"Every time we argue with Iran, every time we argue with North Korea, we argue on the basis that they are not abiding by international rules. They are not abiding by the international standards that we have established.  And here we are, trying to make the same argument with regards to navigation, and we are not even a member of the convention," Panetta said.

Those opposed to ratification say joining the Law of the Sea Convention would erode U.S. sovereignty.

"If the U.S. approves the treaty, it would be forced to transfer billions of dollars in royalties generated from oil and gas production on the U.S. extended continental shelf to the U.N. International Seabed Authority for redistribution to the developing world.  And this is the first time in history that an international organization, the U.N. in this case, would possess taxing authority over this country," said  Sen. James Inhofe, a  Republican.

Secretary Clinton noted that, as a member of the convention, the United States would have veto rights over royalty distribution.  And, she argued, the treaty's benefits far outweigh any costs. "Critics claim we would surrender U.S. sovereignty under this treaty.  But, in fact, it is exactly the opposite.  We would secure sovereign rights over vast new areas and resources," she said.

If congressional consideration is postponed until after the November elections, ratification would either be taken up in the so-called lame duck session before new legislators are sworn in or by the new Congress, which will convene next year.
 

Democrats lead fundraising
with $43.6 million in April


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

U.S. President Barack Obama raised $43.6 million last month for his campaign and the Democratic Party, as he pushes for re-election against likely Republican rival Mitt Romney.

The April fundraising total is less than the $53 million the president and the Democratic National Committee collected in March, but he has still been able to bring in more money than Romney.

Announcing the fundraising figures in a video released Wednesday, President Obama's campaign manager, Jim Messina, said the November election will be "close, given the historic challenges the nation faced when the president first came into office."

Republican organization Crossroads GPS said Wednesday it would spend $25 million on advertising against Obama. 

The president met with small-business owners Wednesday in Washington, while Romney focused on several fundraising events in Florida.

With state primary wins Tuesday in Oregon and Nebaska, Romney is edging closer to clinching the Republican nomination.

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Boatload of U.S. students
to return here June 8


Special to A.M. Costa Rica

More than 600 students, faculty, and staff of Semester at Sea, the shipboard program for study abroad, will arrive in Puerto Limón June 8 and dock at 8 a.m. as part of their 26-day academic voyage through Central and South America. The “MV Explorer” is the state-of-the-art passenger ship that Semester at Sea has outfitted as a traveling university, said Semester at Sea.

While in Costa Rica, students will have the opportunity to participate in faculty-directed programs wherein they will be able to supplement their academic pursuits with relevant excursions, said the educational organization. These faculty-led programs offer students the opportunity to explore a class topic with their professors and extend learning beyond the classroom, it added.

Semester at Sea is a global study abroad program that traces its roots to 1963. Participants, who hail from more than 250 U.S. and international universities, circumnavigate the globe aboard the 24,300-ton campus of the MV Explorer, attend classes in a closely knit environment with an international faculty, complete fieldwork and travel while in port, and receive course credit from the University of Virginia, the academic sponsor, said the organization.

The spring voyage departed Puntarenas Monday and will travel to international destinations including Peru, Ecuador, Panamá and Belize before returning to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, June 15.


Trio said to create, sell
fake immigration IDs


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Three persons were detained on allegations that they fabricated false immigration identifications.

Two were detained near the main office of the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería in La Uruca and one was detained at a home in Hatillo.

The Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública said that law officers became aware of the situation when they detained foreigners with false documents. Involved were supposed U.S. visas, work permits and residency cédulas, said the ministry.

The individuals would present themselves as persons who could expedite immigration processing and then sell the fake documents to foreigners, said immigration police who made the arrests.

In Hatillo they found scanners, computers and other devices that were used in the creation of false documents, they said.


Woman held as pot courier

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An aide at the clinic at the Centro Penitenciario La Reforma has been detained because investigators said she reported to work with a half kilo of marijuana in her bag. Agents also searched the cell of a prisoner who was believed to be the recipient of the drug and found four cell telephones, they said.


Morning quake in gulf

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An earthquake estimated by the Red Sismológica Nacional at 3.9 took place at 10:44 a.m. Wednesday in the Gulf of Nicoya abut 18 kilometers (about 11 miles) north northwest of Jacó. The Red, based on the Universidad de Costa Rica, said the location also was 25 kilometers Southwest of Orotina. That's about 15.5 miles.

The Laboratorio de Ingeniería Sísmica at the same university estimated the magnitude at 3.7.  There were no reports of injury or serious damage.












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