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(506) 223-1327        Published Wednesday, May 31, 2006, in Vol. 6, No. 107        E-mail us    
Jo Stuart
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European help possible for urban rail lines
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The country has received offers from European railway companies who want to improve the urban train now serving the metropolitan area.

City and central government officials met Tuesday to discuss possible ways to improve the limited service now being offered by the rail service. There are only four trips between Pavas and San Pedro each day, although a Tibás-Heredia route is in the works.

Casa Presidencial said that the Czech firm Inekon Group A.S. has made a $120 million offer that would include a concession.

Inekon makes rail cars and urban trams, but the firm also has planning and financing units. It had been in joint ventures with Skoda Transport Technology of Pilsen until a much publicized breakup three years ago.

Anyone who has visited Central Europe probably has ridden on a Skoda car. Portland, Ore., has been considering purchases from Inekon for its urban lines.

The officials who met on the concept were Rodrigo Arias, minister of the Presidencia; Johnny Araya, mayor of San José; Bruno Stagno, minister of Relaciones Exteriores; Miguel Carabaguiaz, executive president of  the Instituto Costarricense de Ferrocarriles; Viviana Martín, vice minister of Transportes, and Luis Diego Vargas, technical secretary of
the Consejo General de Concesión Pública.

What the officials seek are ways to move people without the estimated 3,000 buses a day that come in to San José.

Concessions are a way for governments to get foreign investment to build their roads, bridges and railways.  The private firm makes the investment and then collects on the revenue over time.

The major problems are that Costa Rica's law on concession is being changed in the Asamblea Legislativa and that previous concessions have not been very successful.

For example, Juan Santamaría airport is being developed and managed on a 20-year concession granted in 1999 to the British firm Alterra Partners. But the relationship with Costa Rican transportation officials has been rocky.

The original Costa Rican railway service was built on a concession. U.S. businessman Minor C. Keith obtained a 99-year concession from the cash-strapped Costa Rican government of 1884. He also received title to some 800,000 acres in the Provincia de Limón and control of the Limón port. Keith used the land to grow bananas and the railway to haul them to the port. From his efforts grew the United Fruit Co.

The current urban train runs on the route laid out by Keith's engineers.

Local comic strip 'Tico Taxi' debuts today
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A rolling conversation between a taxi and an Escazú bus are the core of a new weekly comic strip, Tico Taxi, that begins today.

The artist is Escazú resident Noe Bett, who with the help of Texas native J. Ames, will try to define the news of Costa Rica in a humorous way. The strip will be carried on the calendar page.

Miss Bett is the administrative assistant in a large import-export business. At the end of a 10-week trial run, A.M. Costa Rica readers will decide the fate of the strip.

A larger version is HERE!
The newspaper is always on the lookout for local talent. And strip suggestions may be sent to the editor.  Other ideas to improve the newspaper also are welcome. 

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, May 31, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 107

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Roadblocks in place
to locate stolen guns

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Fuerza Pública officers have set up roadblocks around Guácimo to try to find weapons stolen from their facilities there over the weekend.

Oswaldo Alpizar Nuñez, director general of the force, said Tuesday that 180 officers were involved in the search, covering Guácimo, San Carlos and points north. In addition to his officers, the Judicial Investigating Organization and the Direción de Inteligencia y Seguridad is involved.

The report of the theft of some 15 M-16 military rifles, amunition and handguns came Monday even as officials in San José were filing a formal judicial complaint about a series of thefts at the Arsenal Nacional where an undetermined amount of heavy weaponry is missing.

The Guácimo theft took place in a building that has 24-hour Fuerza Pública presence.

If the weapons are typical, they are capable of automatic firing and frequently are the weapon of choice of bank robbers.

Glencairn buys gold mines
on Nicaragua, Panamá

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

Glencairn Gold Corp., which operates a mine in Costa Rica, has agreed to purchase La Libertad gold mine in Nicaragua and its 60 percent interest in the Cerro Quema gold deposit in Panamá.

Glencairn is purchasing the two projects from Yamana Gold Inc. for 32 million common shares, 26 million of which relate to the acquisition of La Libertad and 6 million of which relate to the acquisition of the Cerro Quema interest, the company said.

The transaction is conditional upon Glencairn completing an equity financing for minimum proceeds of $12.5 million Canadian. At the completion of the transaction, Yamana would own approximately 37.8 million common shares of Glencairn representing approximately 18.4 percent of its shares outstanding.

La Libertad mine is a producing mine located approximately 110 kilometers (68 miles) due east of Managua, The mine has previously been undercapitalized and plagued by maintenance problems, and it is Glencairn’s belief that with proper funding and management, the mine could achieve a substantially higher production rate, said the company.

Glencairn constructed the Bellavista open pit mine in western Costa Rica and achieved commercial production in December, more than doubling Glencairn’s gold output, which is now expected to be almost 100,000 ounces annually excluding production from the assets to be acquired from Yamana. Its Limon Mine in Nicaragua has been in production since 1941. Glencairn currently has approximately 173 million shares outstanding.

Glencairn closed at 64 U.S. cents up a penny on the American Stock Exchange Tuesday.

ICE labor leaders met
with President Arias

By the A.M. Costa rica staff

Union leaders for workers at the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad met with President Óscar Arias Sánchez Tuesday and presented him with a 13-page letter outlining the ills they say would come from approval of the free trade treaty with the United States

A spokesman for Casa Presidencial described the meeting as cordial.

The letter was produced by the Frente Interno de Trabajadores del ICE but carried the names of executives from other unions. Among other points, the letter asked Arais to withdraw the free trade agreement from the current legislature and to open a national dialogue on the issue.

The letter accused treaty supporters of manipulating public opinion with radio and television commercials.

The union leaders also said they sought a law that would truly strengthen the telecommunications giant.

Legislative leaders think that the free trade treaty will come on the floor of the full Asamblea Legislativa before the Christmas break. However, some lawmakers have expressed concern, and there is no guantee of passage.
Road work due in 'summer'

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A new highway from San José to San Ramón will begin next summer season and be finished in 24 months, according to Marco Vargas, minister of Coordinación Interinstitucional.

The $240 million job is in the hands of a concessionaire, which will erect five or six toll stations collecting about $1 at each. What is called summer begins in December in Costa Rica.
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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, May 31, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 107


Fuerza Pública officers on patrol near the border crossing with Panamá on the Río Sixaola. Photo was taken earlier this week.

Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública/Guillermo Solano

Tightening up southern border pays off with arrests
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A glaring gap in the borders of Costa Rica has been the area around Sixaola in the southeast.

When he took office May 8, Fernando Berrocal Soto called the border there wide open. Within a week, new police units were in place and patrolling the Río Sixaola that is the division between Costa Rica and Panamá.

Berrocal's concerns did not just apply to the importation of untaxed merchandise. The country was wide open to the entry of any individual, a fugitive or a drug lord, who wanted to avoid official eyes at the other national entry points. Officials suspected that the Panamá crossing was being used as a route for undocumented Colombians.

That proved to be the case Tuesday when a police unit encountered three men and a woman, all with Colombian nationality.

Officials at the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y
Seguridad Pública, said the events played out this way:

A woman with the last name of Camacho left the country illegally to enter Panamá. She holds refugee status here.

In a nearby Panamanian village she met three Colombian men and directed them to the Río Sixaola where a small boat was waiting. They crossed the river but encountered awaiting police on the Costa Rican side.

Colombia is involved in a 40-year civil war and also is the home to many large narcotrafficking rings.  The continual fighting has displaced hundreds of thousands of citizens in a situation the United Nations calls critical.

Costa Rica has begun to limit the number of refugees it will accept.

Berrocal plans to create a border patrol force, but that is not yet in place. He has expressed concerns about the northern border with Nicaragua, too.

California Ponzi scammer is sentenced to 30 years
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

James Paul Lewis Jr., who operated the Orange County-based Financial Advisory Consultants, has been sentenced to 30 years in federal prison for running a massive Ponzi scheme that raised approximately $311 million and caused more than 1,600 victims to lose more than $156 million.

Lewis, 59, of Villa Park, California, was sentenced late Friday in Santa Ana before U.S. District Judge Cormac J. Carney. In addition to the prison term, Judge Carney ordered Lewis to pay $156 million in restitution.

In imposing the statutory maximum of 30 years, Judge Carney described the scheme as a “crime against humanity” because of the harm to many elderly victims.

During the sentencing hearing, several victims addressed the court and described the impact the crime, including the loss of life savings and college funds.  Many victims described being forced back to work after losing their retirement savings in the scheme.

Lewis, who has been in custody since his arrest Jan. 22, 2004, pleaded guilty last fall to mail fraud and money laundering charges.

According to court documents, this is what happened:

Lewis offered investors two purported investment opportunities: a growth fund and an income fund.
Lewis, through false and fraudulent brochures and other promotional material issued by Financial Advisory Consultants, told investors that they would
earn annual rates of return of up to 18 percent in the
income fund, which claimed to generate revenue 
from the leasing of medical equipment, commercial lending and financing insurance premiums. The firm promised investors 40 percent annual returns in the growth fund, which claimed to generate revenue through the purchase and sale of distressed businesses.

Lewis induced investors to contribute approximately $311 million. Instead of using the investors’ money as promised, Lewis used the funds to further the scheme and to enrich himself and others. Lewis used investors’ funds to purchase homes in Villa Park, Laguna Niguel, Palm Desert, San Diego, all in California, and Greenwich, Connecticut. He also used investors’ money to purchase luxury automobiles for himself, his wife and his girlfriend.

In addition to spending the money on consumer goods, Lewis used company money from 1996 to 2003 to trade currency futures, incurring losses of at least $22 million. Lewis also utilized investors’ funds to invest in companies, including one where he served as president.

To conceal the scheme, Lewis used the money of new investors, or subsequent investments of existing investors, to pay the rates of return promised to prior investors to effectuate a Ponzi scheme.

As of December 2003, according to court documents, the funds’ computer records showed that they had nearly 3,300 investors with a purported total balance of $813,932,080. However, on Dec. 22, 2003, the funds and Lewis’s bank accounts held only slightly more than $2 million.

This case was the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and IRS Criminal Investigation. The United States Securities and Exchange Commission and the California Department of Corporations provided substantial assistance.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, May 31, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 107

U.S. pins its World Cup hopes on Kasey Keller
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The U.S. Men's National Soccer Team heads to Germany this week for the 2006 World Cup to compete with 31 other nations for the sport's ultimate prize. This will be the first time in four World Cup appearances that goalkeeper Kasey Keller is the undisputed starter for the U.S. men.

Off the field, Kasey Keller's conservative appearance and wire-framed glasses make him look more like a mild-mannered accountant than one of the world's top netminders. But on game day, Keller's intense glare is filtered through a pair of contact lenses and his attitude is all business.

The 1.88-meter tall goalie is known for his uncanny shot-stopping ability and talent for making big saves. That, combined with a calming leadership presence, makes Keller what U.S. head coach Bruce Arena calls a "top-class goalkeeper."

"Not only does he do what his primary job is, to stop shots, but the comfort level for the team is much greater when Kasey is on the field. And I think as you trace Kasey's history with the U.S. team we have been successful a high percentage of the time when he is in the goal, and he's a winner as well, so he brings a lot to the table," Arena said.

Coach Arena also praises Keller's work ethic. "I am amazed because there are days, obviously, when you don't feel like going to work, and it seems like Kasey every day is into it. That is really outstanding for a guy his age and his experience that he brings it to the field every day," he said.

U.S. goalkeeper coach Phil Wheddon agrees, and says the 36-year-old Keller's composure beneath the crossbar sets him apart from other goalies. "Kasey just makes good decisions on the field and that really distinguishes him as one of the best goalkeepers in the world. I don't think that he ever really changes his mood during a game. He is very calm at all times, whether he is under pressure, or whether he is not under pressure. The other thing that builds confidence within the team is his leadership. He has tremendous leadership. The fact that he commands the box both physically and verbally," he said.

Keller's leadership and disciplined work ethic have made him the backbone of the U.S. national team.

He is the all-time leader for U.S. goalkeepers with an amazing record of 51 wins and 45 shutouts in 93 international appearances. He is the first-ever three-time recipient of U.S. Soccer's Male Athlete of the Year award, winning the honor in 1997, 1999 and 2005.

Keller helped lead the U.S. team to two regional conference Gold Cup championships in 2002 and 2005, and the semifinals in 2003.

Wheddon says Keller is a big reason the U.S. will be playing in its fifth straight World Cup. "Every
goalkeeper at this level can save shots. Everyone can make saves, everyone can do the simple things, but the mark of a great goalkeeper is coming up with the big save when it is needed, and Kasey does that time and time again. And if it was not for Kasey Keller, I am sure we would be in a little bit more of a tricky situation right now," he said.

Keller has spent his 16-year club career in England, Spain and Germany, playing in three of Europe's top leagues. He currently is the starter for Borussia Monchengladbach in the German Bundesliga, so he will be familiar with the World Cup stadiums.

Despite all his success, Keller spent all but two games of three previous trips to the World Cup on the bench.

For 10 years he dueled with Brad Friedel for the starting job on the U.S. team. It was not until Friedel retired last year that Arena elevated Keller as his undisputed No. 1 goalkeeper.

At the age of 36, Keller is the oldest player on the 23-man U.S. roster. He says he does not feel the need to impress anyone, and enjoys his role as a team leader.

Wheddon also appreciates Keller's experience and skills. "I think now that he is at the top of his game, I have said before, he is like fine wine, he seems to get better with age instead of losing a step as many older players do," he said.

Keller says having the 2006 World Cup in Germany is very comforting. In fact he lives only about an hour's drive from where the United States plays its opening match June 12 in Gelsenkirdhen against the Czech Republic.

Keller and his family live in a rented 1,000-year-old castle outside the German city of Duesseldorf, complete with a moat and a luxury spa. Keller says it is just a small castle built in the year 970. "My wife found it online. It is just a great experience and the kids are really enjoying it, and it is out in the country, which kind of takes me back to my roots," he said.

Keller's roots are in the U.S. Pacific Northwest. He grew up on an egg farm in the state of Washington outside the city of Olympia.

He says the variety of sports he played growing up in America helped him develop as an all-around athlete. "There is no question if you look at American sports everything you do growing up — either you are playing basketball, baseball, football — that most of our sports are with the hands. There is a lot to that, why we create such good athletes is because of the multiple sport facet that we have in this country. It creates total athletes as opposed to just one person who is good at one thing," he said.

Keller has asked his fans from home and Europe to give him a shout and a wave from the stands at the World Cup. He says chants and cheers from the fans really mean a lot when facing the best in the world.

Morning drug raids seek to eliminate the source of crime in the city
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Anti-drug agents staged four raids Tuesday morning to stem what has been a wide-open drug trade.

Five persons, including one woman were detained.

The raids appear to be part of a new security ministry policy of rooting out the sources of crime.

Some of the drug trade had been featured on local television. Women, the elderly and even juveniles were taped lining up to purchase what appeared to be crack cocaine from a run-down house in north San José.

The raids Tuesday were at locations between calles 6 and 7 and avenidas 7 and 9 not far from the Museo de los Niños. Raids also took place in Copey de Tibás and Barrio San Gabriel in Calle Blancos.

A statement from the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública said that the raids were targeting one ring of drug distributors. Arrested was a man with the last names of Navas Molina, identified as the leader of the group.

Crack cocaine is epidemic here, and crack cocaine is available at many homes and businesses. The price for a rock still is cheap, mainly because getting

Ministerio de Seguirdad Pública photo
Drug police man an arrrest in Copey de Tibás

cocaine into the United States, the principal market, is not as easy as it was before Sept. 11, 2001.

Jo Stuart
About us

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