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(506) 2223-1327              Published Friday, June 11, 2010,  in Vol. 10, No. 114        E-mail us
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Life can still be a struggle even in this paradise
By Manuel Avendaño Arce
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Under an afternoon rain Thursday Alejandro Martínez Coronado came to the legislative complex looking for work in construction. He went to the former Edificio Daniel Oduber Quirós, which is being demolished to make way for a parking lot.

Martínez saw an announcement from the firm doing the demolition and knew they were looking for workers. He said he decided to present his resume. But the manager there said that although he had all the prerequisites and experience at 49 he was too old for the job, Martínez reported later.

Costa Rica does not have protective age and gender laws.

"This is the eighth time that they told me the same thing," said Martínez. He said he has gone two months without work and that he has four children and a wife. Only he works in the family because his wife never went to school and does not know how to read. Martínez is literate but has a very limited formal education.

He represents the hidden side of Costa Rica, the citizens who fall through the extensive social safety net that has been constructed over the last 60 years. Tourists and many expats never see this side except perhaps as a quick glimpse of rough shacks from a bus or car.

The Martínez family lives in Aserrí, south of the capital. The house is at the edge of a river in a location that health officials said in 2005 was in danger of collapse. They simply are squatting on the land and could be evicted, along with their equally poor neighbors, at any time.

The man said he has been seeking a steady job or support since the government of Abel Pacheco, who left office in 2006. But no aid has been forthcoming. So every day he gets up, looks for work and sometimes resorts to selling fruit in the street to get a little money to maintain his wife and  his pre-teen youngsters. If he cannot find a job as a

demoltion
A.M. Costa Rica/Manuel Avendaño Arce
Building demolition gets under way
job hunter
A.M. Costa Rica/Manuel Avendaño Arce
Alejandro Martínez Coronado

 construction worker, he said he would settle for being a security guard. But that, too, requires training and maybe a pistol permit.

The Martínez family is in a continual cycle of poverty because he said that his children do not go to school because he cannot afford to pay the small amounts of money that even a free education demands. Without basic education, the youngsters are bound to follow in the footsteps of their mother and father.

There is a program of elementary and secondary scholarships that former president Óscar Arias Sánchez put in place, but to get one parents have to know the system and be in the right place.
When he is working full time Martínez makes about 170,000 colons a month, which could be between $300 and $350 depending on the exchange rate at the time.

Although he has a piece of paper that certifies he has never been in trouble with the law, he said that if a real job does not turn up or if he cannot get any aid from the government, he will have to resort to theft to feed his family.

His quest is just a very small version of similar situations all over the country. With the slowdown in construction two years ago thousands have lost work. These day jobs were precarious anyway, and there are very limited possibilities for a middle-aged man with little education and limited skills.

On the Pacific coast, the problem is less obvious because many of the construction workers were Nicaraguans who returned to their home country when jobs vanished.

Statistics do not show a dramatic increase in crime, in part because police have been working for the last two year to jail notorious street criminals. But a spike in the crime rate is likely with more unemployment and desperate men like Martínez.


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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, June 11, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 114

Costa Rica Expertise
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A.M. Costa Rica's professional directory is where business people who wish to reach the English-speaking community may invite responses. If you are interested in being represented here, please contact the editor.


Dentistry
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ask Angela Jiménez
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Accountants

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The registration of Burke Fiduciary S.A., corporate ID 3-101-501917 with the  General Superintendence of Financial Entities (SUGEF) is not an authorization  to operate. The supervision of SUGEF refers to compliance with the capital legitimization requirements of Law No. 8204. SUGEF does not supervise the
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Real estate agents and services

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Water in Heredia river
rates high for pollution

By Dennis Rogers
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

A study by researchers at the Universidad Nacional found that pollution of the Río Bermúdez in the Heredia area is critical due to leaking septic tanks, indiscriminate discharge of sewage into watercourses, and erosion. The local utility Empresa de Servicios Públicos de Heredia took advantage of the presentation to announce a $200 million sewage treatment project.

Jorge Herrera and José Rojas established a network of 64 sampling sites on the Río Bermudez and its tributaries and monitored them from 2007 to 2009. The river flows into the Río Virilla and eventually the Pacific via the Río Tárcoles. Both dry and wet season samples were analyzed. The university has its own water quality laboratory.

Parameters studied were pH, chemical oxygen demand, biochemical oxygen demand, suspended solids, settleable solids, and various dissolved chemicals.

The situation ranges from relatively unpolluted in the dry season at the highest reaches of the watershed, with Class 2 water which generally is safe to swim in. The two stations in downtown Heredia are critical in the dry season with essentially inadequate dissolved oxygen to sustain animal life. Even in the wet season with the extra dilution from higher rainfall, taking into account the increased turbidity caused by erosion, this water would still be “code yellow” and unfit for recreational activities, according to the analysis. While theoretically this could be used for human consumption with heavy treatment, the dry season flow is unfit for any use.

The researchers implicate the sewage load for the 43 percent increase in oxygen demand noted from one end of the drainage to the other, while erosion accounts for a 40 percent increase in suspended particles over the same distance.

As a result, they conclude, surface water is unusable for even irrigation of vegetable crops. This makes for a higher and potentially unsustainable demand on the Barva aquifer.

Crucitas case goes to appeal
Monday before three judges


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Poder Judicial said that the Crucitas open pit gold mine will be the topic of an appeals court hearing Monday. The company, Industrias Infinito S.A., the Costa Rican subsidiary of a Canadian firm, seeks to have the court reverse an order that it  not continue its preparation for mining at the site in northern Costa Rica.

The case will be heard in oral arguements by the Tribunal de Apelaciones de lo Contencioso Administrativo in the Tribunales de Justicia de Goicoechea.

The Sala IV constitutional court in a 5-2 vote gave the go-ahead to the gold mining project in a decision announced in mid-April. Almost immediately opponents of the project obtains an order suspending work at the site from the Tribunal Contencioso Administrativo. Monday opponents will have the task of  defending that order, which appears to have been issued by the court without input from the mining firm.

The mining firm, of course, will oppose the arguments of the opponents and also suggest that the court overstepped its boundaries when it set itself against the decision by the constitutional court. A three-judge panel will hear the arguments. Infinito expects to get at least 700,000 ounces of gold from the pit mine over 10 years.

President Laura Chinchilla has come out against open pit mining, but her opposition cannot halt the Crucitas project, which already has all its permits. Former president Óscar Arias Sánchez had declared the project to be in the national interest.

Three officials investigated
in two separate cases


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

There were two separate allegations of official wrongdoing Thursday.

In Ciudad Quesada, prosecutors and the Judicial Investigating Organization, searched the offices of the Área de Conservación Arenal Huetar Norte.

The office chief, identified by the last names of Corrales Jiménez, was interrogated by prosecutors later, as was an employee in the office, identified by the last names of Garbanzo Solís. The allegations are use of false documents and falsification of documents. The allegation is believed to relate to alleged bribes from individuals seeking permits to cut trees. The office is a dependency of the environmental ministry.

In Santa Ana, a Fuerza Pública subdirector was detained and questioned in an investigation of sexual abuse against a former female officer, said the Poder Judicial. The man was identified by the last names of Bustos Angulo. Agents said the allegations stem from an incident in January.

Theater busy for three days

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional will interpret works having roots in zarzuela in its twin concerts tonight and Sunday morning.  Zarzuela can best be described as a form of Spanish light opera.

The orchestra will be under the direction of Luis Remartínez, guest conductor. The Coro Sinfónico Nacional and three invited soloists will participate. Tonight's performance is at 8 p.m., and Sunday's is at 10:30 a.m., both in the Teatro Nacional.

Meanwhile Saturday, the Banda Sinfónica Juvenil will take the Teatro Nacional stage at 8 p.m. The group is from the Instituto Nacional de la Música. Included in the program are four dances from "West Side Story" and classical works.

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A.M. Costa Rica guide

This is a brief users guide to A.M. Costa Rica.

Old pages
Each day someone complains via e-mail that the newspages are from yesterday or the day before. A.M. Costa Rica staffers check every page and every link when the newspaper is made available at 2 a.m. each weekday.

So the problem is with the browser in each reader's computer. Particularly when the connection with the  server is slow, a computer will look to the latest page in its internal memory and serve up that page.

Readers should refresh the page and, if necessary, dump the cache of their computer, if this problem persists. Readers in Costa Rica have this problem frequently because the local Internet provider has continual problems.

Searching
The A.M. Costa Rica search page has a list of all previous editions by date and a space to search for specific words and phrases. The search will return links to archived pages.

Newspages
A typical edition will consist of a front page and four other newspages. Each of these pages can be reached by links near the top and bottom of the pages.

Classifieds
Five classified pages are updated daily. Employment listings are free, as are listings for accommodations wanted, articles for sale and articles wanted. The tourism page and the real estate sales and real estate rentals are updated daily.

Advertising information
A summary of advertising rates and sizes are available for display and classifieds.

Contacting us
Both the main telephone number and the editor's e-mail address are listed on the front page near the date.

Visiting us
Directions to our office and other data, like bank account numbers are on the about us page.


For your international reading pleasure:


News of Nicaragua
News of Central America
News of Cuba
News of Venezuela
News of Colombia
News of El Salvador

News of Honduras
News of the Dominican Republic
News of Panamá

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, June 11, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 114

Krav maga
Rock and Roll

Country will pause this morning for World Cup kickoff
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
and wire service reports

At 8 a.m. Costa Rican time today, the first match of the World Cup kicks off. The encounter is between host South Africa and the Mexican national team.

The local time is 4 p.m. in Johannesburg. No host nation has ever lost their opening game in the World Cup finals, and the South African squad does not want to make that kind of history. But the team only has won one World cup match, and that was in 2002. However, South Africa has done well in warmup games. Mexico, which plays in the same local league as Costa Rica, is a powerhouse.

The World Cup is the Superbowl and the World Series rolled into one and times 10. School children here will be able to watch the opening ceremonies, thanks to a decision by the education ministry. Not a lot of work will be done in public offices.

Beer consumption will go up for the next month while individual games are played.

There will be tears that this year Costa Rica is not among the 32 teams seeking the title this year.

Already scammers have bombed Internet users with fake messages titled "FIFA World Cup South Africa Bad News."
FIFA is the Fédération Internationale de Football Association, which runs the games.

Although the attachment is disguised as a Web page file, it most certainly is a trojan that will open a personal computer to the whims of the scammer. The messages come from all over the globe, from already captive computers.

The federation maintains a Web page with the latest news
and a summary of all the games. There also are Buzz, Twitter, Share and Facebook links.

The organization also plans to broadcast all 64 matches in sign language visa its Web page.

Nelson Mandela, 91, the country's first post-apartheid president and Nobel laureate, is scheduled to attend the inaugural ceremonies, although he will watch the first game from his home.

The marketing efforts that go with the World Cup are enormous. Even in Costa Rica commercial enterprises have taken advantage of the games to promote products, and not just travel agencies.

South Africa held a star-studded concert and numerous festivals around the country Thursday on the eve of the tournament. Tens of thousands of people packed into Soweto's Orlando stadium Thursday night to watch artists including Shakira, the Black Eyed Peas, and Hugh Masekela.

Thousands of others flocked to special fan parks to watch local bands and fireworks displays.  In one such event in Cape Town, three people were injured in a crowd crush. 

Enthusiasm in South Africa is extremely high as the country hosts the first World Cup on African soil.

Italy enters the World Cup as defending champion, but Spain, the reigning European champion, and five-time former champion Brazil are considered strong early favorites to win the 2010 title. 

In the only other match Friday, Uruguay takes on France in Cape Town.  Saturday, the United States opens its World Cup run against England in Rustenburg.


From distant wars to some old and new restaurants
First, some old business; at least it seems old because my Internet has been down for nearly five days and the last I read my column was when I wrote it.  And that means that responses to it have just emerged from the backlog of unopened mail. 

Jeff challenged my statement that the U.S. was the only country that had invaded a Central American country since the 1900s. He is right.  My research wasn’t thorough enough.  To deal with two:  The war between Panamá and Costa Rica, which is often referred to as a border dispute, is one that had been going on for a long time.  But its armed hostilities started when on Feb. 21, 1921, 28 Costa Rican soldiers sailed into the Coto region on the border between the two countries, and Panama was prepared with only 10 policemen who were mobilized into an army. Incursions and hostilities continued until the U.S. stepped in and calmed down both countries on Sept. 5, 1921.  I could find no evidence of loss of life, but I may have missed that. 

As Jeff said, the football war, or 100 hours War, between El Salvador and Honduras began over fútbol and the Honduran objection to the huge number of El Salvadoran immigrants into their country.  Although it lasted only four days, 2,000 civilians were killed before the Organization of American States, of which the U.S. is a member, intervened.

Perhaps because my computer was essentially down without Internet, I have been going out to eat more often than usual, trying new restaurants and returning to some I have not visited for a long time.  I have found two of my old favorites still to be very good and one new one that, in my opinion, fills the bill of what a good restaurant is. 

In the eastern side of the city there is Aya Sofya sometimes called Sofia Mediterraneo, a Turkish restaurant that used to be on the corner of Central Avenue not far from Megaly movie theater.  It is still not far from Megaly; right across from Intensa English language school on the street alongside Bagelman’s. It is a sort of indoor-outdoor restaurant, small as restaurants go, that has expanded from its originally even smaller space.  It is still reasonable and one of the few restaurants where you can get lamb dishes.  On Friday and Saturday they have special evenings and feature menus from different parts of the Mediterranean.  The night I was there they were celebrating the Isle of Crete and showing the movie "Zorba the Greek," along with demonstrating how to make moussaka. 
Butterfly in the City
 
. . .  Musings from San José

By Jo Stuart
jostuart@amcostarica.com

Jo Stuart

Another of my former frequently visited restaurants is in Barrio Otoya:  The by now well-known Café Mundo. It seems to be a favorite spot for tourists and residents alike.  It is on the corner of Avenida 9 and Calle 15 (numbers located only on maps, not on street corners) and perches above the street with both indoor and outdoor tables.  The menu leans toward Italian and European.  The prices are reasonable, the portions are generous (including the wine) and the service is generally attentive, given the lengths the waiters must run. The ejecutive is a bargain. Something that marks them from other restaurants is the three kinds of bread they serve: a tomato bread, an olive bread and a whole wheat, all with a texture unlike other breads.  In the doggy bag of pasta I took home, they included the leftover bread, which was delicious toasted.  The food is very good, but probably fattening.

The new restaurant, Arte & Gusto, is west in Barrio Amón, on the corner of Avenida 9 and Calle 3.  I went with some friends and the whole experience was delightful. I am sure the company had something to do with it, but it was also the service and good humor and desire to please us of our salonero, Bertrand, that made the experience such fun.  I learned later than he is one of the owners, along with Gerald and Patricia Richer. Gerald tends the bar (and makes a really good mojito), and Patricia is the talented chef. It was apparent with our first courses that the arte part of the café is in the presentation of the dishes, not on the wall. The quality and taste of the food is No. 1 on my list of what makes a good restaurant.  Second, is the price (in the sense did I feel that what I got was worth the money), and in both Arte & Gusto rated high.  The décor is original and in a restful beige and white with what I thought was a Moroccan touch.

I have learned from sad experience that it is dangerous to recommend a restaurant I have visited only once. (or make statements that are not well-researched)  So really, all I am doing is inviting you to try and judge for yourself,  some of the delights of San José.

You need to see Costa Rican tourism information HERE!

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, June 11, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 114

Escazú Christian Fellowship
xx
Guoadalupe Missionary Baptist Church


Large animal, perhaps cougar, causes concern in Heredia

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Residents in the hills high above Heredia Centro are getting a personal lesson in the environment. There appears to be one or more mountain lions populating the area. These cats can range for 20 miles a day, so pinpointing their location is difficult.

A resident in San José de la Montaña reported that he lost a calf to some kind of animal. A mountain lion is suspected, although the deed could have been done by one or more large dogs. The calf was only half eaten. The fact that the carcass was left in the open weighs against the presence of
a mountain lion, also known as a cougar or puma. These big cats like to carry off their prey for solitary feasting.

However, the discovery of the dead calf was enough to cause local school officials to warn students and secure the facilities.

Mountain lions, which can be eight feet long, have been known to carry off humans, including joggers and hikers. They hunt from ambush.

There are other categories of large cats that could be responsible for the kill.




MoneyGram and Citi announce pact to work together

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

MoneyGram International, a global money transfer company, and Citi, the financial services firm, announced Thursday an agreement to expand MoneyGram’s money transfer services to all Citi locations in Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua.

“This important agreement extends MoneyGram’s presence in Citi’s network across Central America,” said Dan O’Malley, MoneyGram International executive vice president for the Americas. “MoneyGram’s growth in Central America is a vital part of our global expansion plans, and adding hundreds of agent locations across Central America with a premier partner like Citi is a significant step in establishing a foundation for future growth.”

In 2009, Central America received nearly $11.6 billion in remittances according to the Inter-American Development
Bank. Central America is highly dependent on these funds as the bank estimated it accounts for nearly 17 percent of the region’s gross domestic product, said MoneyGram.

"Expanding our relationship with MoneyGram will provide Central Americans in the region and their family and friends with affordable, reliable and convenient money transfer services," said Constantino Gotsis, a Citi executive.

Citi has grown extensively in the region since 2007 when it acquired Grupo Cuscatlan and Grupo Financiero Uno. Both institutions had provided MoneyGram money transfer services for 15 years in El Salvador and Honduras.

MoneyGram began its global money transfer services in Central America more than 15 years ago.

The company has expanded in the region and has a network comprised of financial institutions and retailers.



Hike in 2009 employment rate reported less than expected

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The rate of open unemployment increased from 7.3 to 8.1 percent during 2009, less than originally feared, said the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean and the International Labour Organization in a bulletin published this month.

In their third joint bulletin, the organizations examine the impact of the global crisis and gradual economic recovery on the labor market in Latin America and the Caribbean during 2009, concluding that the impact on labor was not as strong as initially predicted.

Although the crisis caused a drop in employment, an increase in unemployment rates and the deterioration of the quality of employment, the impact was mitigated by the signs of economic recovery as of mid-2009 around the globe, the countercyclical policies adopted in many countries and the stability of the purchasing power of wages due to decreasing inflation, which restrained the fall in domestic demand.

Moreover, unemployment increased less than expected, partly due to the fact that many youths stopped searching
 for jobs given the unfavourable conditions of the labour market, the bulletin said.

Towards the end of 2009, labour indicators in many countries were improving, and by the last quarter of the year, the employment rate in the region had reached the same levels as that of the same quarter in 2008. This process was accompanied by better quality of employment, given that in all of the countries with available data, formal employment began to rise.

The improvements in the labour market continued through the beginning of 2010, although several countries are far from overcoming the impact of the crisis and the degree of economic recovery differs significantly from one country to another, said the bulletin.

The bulletin also examines some of the policies adopted during the crisis and that have increased opportunities for women and promoted gender parity. Among them are the measures geared at protecting the income of the most vulnerable workers, which indirectly benefit women given their high concentration in those income groups, and programs to retain and promote jobs especially aimed at the inclusion of women.


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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, June 11, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 114

Medical vacations in Costa Rica

Mrs. Clinton Tells Uribe
U.S. support to continue

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is in Barbados for meetings with leaders of the Caribbean regional grouping, the Caribbean Community. She arrived from Bogota, where she pledged continued U.S. support for Colombia.

Outgoing Colombian President Alvaro Uribe told the secretary his government is definitively winning its years-long struggle against left-wing insurgents and drug gangs and that there was no better proof than Mrs. Clinton's visit, itself.

The secretary of State made an overnight stay in the once violence-ridden Colombian capital and met her husband, the former president, in Bogota on separate business, for dinner with friends at a downtown restaurant.

At a joint media event with the secretary of State, Uribe said Colombia is not yet a paradise but that the long-troubled country is gaining ground.

"The best P.R. for confidence in Colombia is that last night the madame secretary of State of the United States and the president, Bill Clinton, were in a restaurant in Bogota with complete peace of mind, enjoying this beautiful city and its good restaurants," he said.  "Some years ago, because of terrorism, this would have been unthinkable."

For her part, Mrs. Clinton reaffirmed the Obama administration's support for the massive American aid program, Plan Colombia, begun at the end of her husband's administration.

The United States has since provided the South American state with some $6 billion in mostly-military U.S. assistance.   Clinton says there is no doubt about the bipartisan commitment in Washington to continued Colombia aid.

"We are very gratified by what has been accomplished. But the president and I discussed the remaining agenda," she said.  "The security threats have not completely been eliminated and, therefore, the United States will continue to support the Colombian people, the Colombian military and their government in the on-going struggle against the insurgents, the guerrillas, the narco-traffickers who would wish to turn the clock back."

In an unusual gesture, Mrs. Clinton met Wednesday with both contestants in Colombia's June 20 presidential run-off election.

She promised close American relations with whoever wins. the candidates are former defense minister Juan Manuel Santos of Uribe's ruling party and former Bogota mayor and Green Party candidate Antanas Mockus.

Mrs. Clinton's meetings with Caribbean leaders focuses on security issues, including recent gang violence in Jamaica, Haiti's earthquake recovery and environmental issues, among them the massive Gulf oil spill off the Louisiana coast.

The Caribbean community group, founded in 1972, has 15 full member states, including Haiti and Jamaica, and five associate members.


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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, June 11, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 114


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U.S. reports massive bust
of drug traffickers there


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced Thursday that 2,266 people have been arrested in the United States as part of a 22-month investigation targeting Mexican drug traffickers.  The announcement of what he called the most extensive and successful law enforcement effort to date targeting the cartels comes as Mexico voices concern about immigration-related issues with the United States. 

Flanked by top officials from the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Holder announced the success of the inter-agency cross-border investigation, called Project Deliverance.

In addition to the many arrests, Holder said the probe resulted in the seizure of more than $150 million in U.S. currency.  He said large amounts of drugs, 2.5 tons of cocaine, 69 tons of marijuana, and more than a ton of methamphetamine and heroin, were seized, along with hundreds of weapons and vehicles.

Holder said the operation will impede the drug cartels as well as the ability of traffickers to move drugs into the United States.

"This operation has struck a very significant blow against the cartels," he said. "But make no mistake, we know that as successful as this operation was, it was just one battle in what is an ongoing war."

The United States and Mexico have intensified efforts to fight the drug traffickers who have extensive operations in the United States.  In Mexico, thousands of people have been killed in recent years in drug-related violence.

But at the same time, Mexico is demanding answers from the United States about the death of a Mexican teenager, who was killed this week when U.S. Border Patrol agents responded to a report that illegal immigrants were being smuggled across the border into Texas.

U.S. officials say that as agents detained two suspected illegal immigrants on the U.S. side of the border, other individuals ran back into Mexico and began hurling stones.  The FBI says a Border Patrol agent told them to stop, but they continued.  It says a border agent fired his weapon several times, killing the teenager.

Mexico condemns the action and is demanding a thorough investigation. Roberto Rodriguez Hernandez, the Mexican consul general in El Paso, Texas, says it appears that a disproportionate use of lethal force was used in the incident.

The teenager's death comes as U.S. officials investigate the recent death in San Diego, California of an illegal Mexican immigrant who was in Border Patrol custody and died after he was shot with a stun gun and struck with a baton while resisting the agents who were trying to deport him.


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