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(506) 223-1327        Published Wednesday, June 14, 2006, in Vol. 6, No. 117        E-mail us    
Jo Stuart
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Santos Bonilla Aragón, 3, right, is held by his aunt, Jesenia Aragón Baltodano, while his injured sister, Blanca  Nubia Aragón, displays her teddy bear. At center is the mother, Lesbia Aragón Baltodano with sons Charle, left, and Misael  Bonilla Aragón on her lap.

A.M. Costa Rica/José Pablo Ramírez Vindas

With Aragón family poverty is just the start
By José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Fate has not smiled on the Aragon family.

Nearly a year ago a gas cylinder exploded in the family's rented home in El Carmen de San José.

A son, now 3, suffered burns over 95 percent of his body. His sister also suffered severe but lesser burns.

Thanks to Shriners, the boy, Santos Bonilla Aragón, spent eight months at the Galveston, Texas, Shriners Hospital where he underwent nine surgeries at its world famous burn facility. He had a prosthesis fitted to his right leg, which was badly burned and amputated. The boy also lost his ears and parts of eight fingers. His face is badly scarred.

In Texas, the boy was accompanied by his father, Santos Bonilla. But when the pair returned home, the father left the family.

The mother, Lesbia Aragón Baltodano, traveled with the boy to the United States in early May. They returned June 4. In addition to the boy and her burned daughter Blanca Nubia Aragón, 6, the woman has two more
children who were not affected physically by the explosion.

And that's about all she has.

Any clothes or furniture the family had went up in the fire that followed the explosion. This is extreme poverty plus.

The family now lives in a tiny rented shack in San Juan de Dios de Desamparados. The 40,000-colon ($78) monthly rent is paid to the landlord by a government agency.

The boy needs special treatment, including pills to stem the anxiety and pain, pills to make him hungry and special creams and coverings for his burned skin. The Shrine Club de Costa Rica. has been instrumental in helping the family here and making arrangements for the hospital treatments, which are free to the family.

In mid-August the boy again needs to return to the Texas hospital for reconstructive surgeries on what remains of his ears and fingers.

The mother's sister, Jesenia Aragón Baltodano, has emerged as a major source of daily help for the family.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, June 14, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 117

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Another game tomorrow

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Tomorrow is not a holiday, but there is a Costa Rican national soccer team game in Germany with Ecuador.

The game starts at 7 a.m., but pre-game television coverage is promised here on Channel 6 starting at 5 a.m. The game is in Hamburg.

Ecuador beat Poland 2-0 Friday, the same day Costa Rica lost, 4-2, to host Germany.

All four teams are in Group A, and only two advance to the next level. Germany plays Poland today at 1 p.m.

Body found in Pacific

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Rescuers say they have found the body of Jessica Pierce, 17, who was among the young tourists swept away by heavy seas at Playa Palo Seco, Parrita, Saturday. A fishing boat crew found the body some miles out to sea.

Recovery teams continue to seek the body of Brett Carlson, the 26-year-old teacher who lost his life when he tried to help his students. One body was recovered Saturday and a second Sunday.

The four were members of a trip made up of students, teachers and parents of students at La Bette County High School in Altamont, southeastern Kansas.

At least six students became trapped in a rip tide in the rough Pacific surf.

Murder suspect captured

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An Ecuadorian citizen who has been on the run from a murder charge for nearly nine years came into police hands Tuesday.

He is Francisco Correa Quirola, 37, who was a major businessman and exporter of bananas and shrimp.

He is wanted in the shooting death of José Bolívar Ampuero Peña Herrera, who died in Guayaquil July 20, 1997.

Correa first entered Costa Rica in 1997 and lived from the income generated by his company, Exportadora Quirola Compañía Ltda., officials said. He was located living in a Sabana Sur hotel and was followed when he left, presumably en route to farms he owned near San Vito de Coto Brus. He was stopped at a roadblock in Cartago.

Officials said that Correa shot the victim in a confrontation involving the honor of his brother, Leonardo, who had been kicked out of a party.

Pacheco's son raps pact

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Members of an environmental organization told lawmakers Tuesday that the eventual ratification of the free trade treaty with the United States would lead to deterioration of the land.

The organization is the Federación Costarricense para la Conservación del Ambiente. Representatives appeared before the Comisión Permanente Especial de Relaciones Internacionales y Comercio Exterior.

Those who appeared on behalf of the group were Fabián Pacheco Rodríguez, Silvia Rodríguez, Esteban Monge and Mauricio Álvarez. They said that the treaty was negotiated behind the backs of the people, would jeopardize the water supply and encourage commercial exploitation of the natural resources.

Pacheco is the son of former president Abel Pacheco.

Meanwhile the commission voted down a measure proposed by Oscar López, a blind deputy representing the Partido Accesibilidad sin Exclusión. He said the treaty was never printed in braille and persons who cannot see could not read it. He said he has filed an appeal with the Sala IV constitutional court.

New regulator ratified

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The full legislature Tuesday night ratified Fernando Herrero Acosta as the new regulador general de los servicios públicos.

Also approved was the rest of the board of directors for that agency, Jorge Cornick Montero, Marta María Vinocour Fornieri, Pamela Sittenfeld Hernández and Adolfo Rodríguez Herrera.

Deputies from the Partido Acción Ciudadana, independents Óscar López and José Merino and Lorena Vásquez and Jorge Eduardo Sánchez of the Partido Unidad Social Cristiana opposed the nomination.

The latter complained that Herrero was associated with the Partido Liberación Nacional of President Óscar Arias Sánchez. Francisco Antonio Pacheco, president of the assembly and himself from Liberación Nacional, said that it is logical that a president should name someone from his own party.

The regulatory authority decides on the prices of public services and utilities, ranging from bus rides to electricity and telephone.
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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, June 14, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 117

Scotiabank agrees to purchase Corporación Interfin
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Scotiabank said Tuesday that it has agreed to buy Corporación Interfin for $293.5 million. Corporación Interfin is the parent of Banco Interfin, Costa Rica’s largest private bank.

Scotia will merge its existing facilties here with Interfin, resulting in a 13 per cent loan market share, it said. Subject to regulatory approval, the transaction is expected to close in about two month’s time and will be undertaken through a public share offering.

“Scotiabank has deep roots and a long history in Latin America and we are proud to grow our operations in this region, where we have become a leading bank,” said Rick Waugh, Scotiabank president and chief executive officer. “Acquiring Interfin complements our strategy of investing in high growth markets where we anticipate increased demand for financial services."

"This region is an increasingly important part of Scotiabank’s international strategy, and we have built a strong franchise by delivering superior service and by providing financial stability.”

“Scotiabank’s focus on customer service and teamwork are absolutely consistent with the culture we have maintained at Corporación Interfin, which assures us that our customers and the members of the Interfin team will find themselves in a familiar environment,” said Luis Liberman, chief executive officer of Interfin.

Scotiabank has operated in Costa Rica since 1995. The bank’s subsidiary has about 300 employees, plus 39 automated banking machines and 17 branches, offering retail, commercial and cash management services.

Founded in 1979, Interfin has 24 branches, 36 automatic tellers and about 950 employees. Scotiabank’s combined Costa Rican operation will have 41 branches, 75 automatic tellers, with about $1.6 billion in assets and $1 billion in deposits, Scotia said in its announcement.
In Latin America, Scotiabank already operates in Mexico, Perú, El Salvador, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Panamá, Belize and Chile, with an affiliate in Venezuela and a representative office in Brazil.

“Scotiabank will be leveraging proven, bank-wide capabilities to expand our product and services offerings,” said Brian Brady, Scotiabank’s country head in Costa Rica.

Scotiabank, based in Toronto, has more than 55,000 employees, Scotiabank Group and its affiliates serve about 10 million customers in some 50 countries around the world. With $357 billion in assets, Scotiabank trades on the Toronto and New York stock exchanges.

The Interfin Corporation began in 1979 with the foundation of the International Finance Corp., a financial enterprise dedicated to financing and international commerce to industrial and commercial businesses.  Interfin Bank was approved in 1982.

Interfin bank has branch offices in Alajuela, Barva, Cartago, Curridabat, Desamparados, Escazu, global Park, Guapiles, Heredia, Laureles, Las Flores, Los Suenos, Novacentro, Plaza America, Rohrmoser, Sabana, San Francisco, downtown San José, San Pedro, San Carlos and Tibas.

In addition to Banco Interfin S.A, the Corporación Interfin S.A. operates Transamerica Bank and Trust Company Ltd. in the Bahamas, Interfin Valores, Puesto de Bolsa S.A., a stock brokerage and investment service; Interfin Banex Pensiones S.A., a special unit to manage pension funds with 34,000 clients.

 Also, Corporación Privada de Inversiones de Centroamérica, S.A. CPI. a firm speciaizing in commercial financing; Arrendadora Interfin S.A., a firm that leases heavy equipment;  Arrendadora Interfin Guatemala S.A.; Arrendadora Interfin Nicaragua; Arrendadora Interfin Honduras S.A; Arrendadora Interfin Panamá S.A,; Arrendadora Interfin El Salvador S.A de CV, and Financiera Arrendadora Centroamericana S.A.

U.S. Embassy plans a little show-and-tell in Golfito
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

For weeks, U.S. Navy and Coast Guard vessels sweep the eastern Pacific looking for drug smugglers and those who would slip illegal immigrants into Costa Rica and the United States.

When it is time to take a break, the military units sometimes run into trouble in the Asamblea Legislativa. The Costa Rica Constitution requires an assembly vote before foreign military boats or planes can touch Costa Rican soil.

Lawmakers, usually from the Partido Acción Ciudadana, would vote no. This happened several times over the last four years. Bar owners in Golfito and Puntarenas would roll their eyes. And the minister of security will hustle to get the matter on the assembly docket for one more vote.

Whether the assembly reluctance stems from disagreement with the war on drugs or simply anti-Americanism, the U.S. Embassy staff is trying to do a little public relations this weekend.

The Coast Guard cutter Alert is visiting Golfito, and embassy staffers have lined up visits for security ministry employees and lawmakers from the assembly to visit the craft and meet with the crew.

U.S. Coast Guard photo
The cutter Alert on patrol
Costa Rica and the United States have a joint agreement to patrol the Pacific against contraband.

The 210-foot Alert has been in service 36 years. It is based in Astoria, Oregon  near the Columbia River.

In addition to anti-crime patrols, Coast Guard units have helped in searches for missing swimmers and boaters in the Pacific. Similar units patrol the Caribbean.

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You need to see Costa Rican tourism information HERE!

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, June 14, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 117

Venezuela, Cuba, México rapped by press groups
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Global press freedom organizations have passed resolutions condemning attacks against journalists in the Western Hemisphere.

The Inter-American Press Association said it joined a number of global press advocacy groups in issuing a series of resolutions on violence against journalists, their murders and the breach of press freedoms in the Americas, including in Cuba and Venezuela.

A similar resolution by the Global Coordinating Committee of Press Freedom Organizations, meeting in Moscow, said the majority of the 298 murders of journalists in the past 19 years in the Americas have not been resolved and that violence against the press by organized crime has increased in several countries in the region.

Regarding Venezuela, the committee said many journalists have been assaulted while doing their work and that the Venezuelan government has arrested, imprisoned, prosecuted or threatened others.

The committee criticized the Venezuelan government's restrictions on freedom of expression, and the right to information.  The Venezuelan regime has intensified in a dangerous manner economic pressures and threats against independent media, the Global Committee said.  Besides the Miami-based Inter-American Press Association, the committee is composed of the International Broadcasting Association, the International Federation of the Periodical Press, the International Press Institute, the World Association of Newspapers, and the World Press Freedom Committee.

The Global Committee said a Venezuelan measure called the Law of Social Responsibility in Radio and Television has penalized numerous privately owned broadcast stations by taking regular radio programs off the air.  The law also has escalated increased penalties and fines against radio stations, and led to the revocation of radio frequencies and the closing of broadcast stations, said the committee.
In a separate resolution, the Global Coordinating Committee of Press Freedom Organizations said press freedom in Cuba has been suppressed for the last 46 years.  The resolution said the Cuban government continues to hold 25 journalists in prison, among them 18 journalists suffering serious health conditions. Cuban officials have refused to release them on humanitarian grounds.

Prison conditions for the journalists are described as unhealthy and overcrowded.  The prisoners are said to suffer from poor nutrition and lack of medical attention and are forced to live together with dangerous prisoners.

The committee said four journalists in Cuba released from prison in 2004 for health reasons have been denied permits to leave the country and two of the journalists have been subpoenaed by the Cuban courts and threatened with incarceration.

The use of the Internet in Cuba is controlled by the government, which prevents citizens from accessing the World Wide Web, the committee said.  Cuba is also on the Reporters Without Borders list of 15 countries around the world that are Internet enemies.

The global committee’s resolution demanded "the unconditional release of all imprisoned journalists" in Cuba and an end to "government retaliations against the independent press." It also called for free access to the Internet for independent journalists and citizens.

In another resolution, the committee deplored conditions for journalists working in a number of Mexican states where organized crime has "established its principal operations."

The resolution said that in a number of cases, reporters and editors in Mexico prefer to not make "public accusations" against organized crime because of fear of retaliation.

A.M. Costa Rica is a member of the Inter-American Press Association, although managers here did not vote on the resolutions.

Andean presidents try to keep trade bloc together despite Venezuela
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Members of the four-nation Andean Community trade alliance have gathered in Ecuador for a summit aimed at salvaging their regional commerce bloc.

The presidents of Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia and Perú are attending the summit in Quito, Ecuador's capital.

During the summit, the presidents plan to discuss pursuing a free trade pact with the European Union. They also are seeking an extension of trade
preferences granted by Washington in 1991. The preferences are due to expire at the end of this year.

Venezuela withdrew from the Andean Community last month, saying the bloc is "fatally wounded" because Peru and Colombia signed free trade deals with the United States.

Advocates say the free trade deals open up markets and create more jobs. Critics say the pacts leave developing countries at a disadvantage with competition from cheaper U.S. products.

RACSA seems to be having problems again with spam e-mails
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Some customers of Radiográfica Costarricense S.A., the Internet provider, are finding that their e-mails are bouncing because racsa.co.cr is blacklisted by international anti-spam organizations.

Any e-mail that goes through the Radiográfica servers 
carry electronic signatures showing its origins.

Until about three years ago Radiográfica was frequently on spam blacklists.

A server is blacklisted when it is designated as a source for spam or unsolicited commercial e-mails. Blacklists are maintained by private individuals.

Jo Stuart
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