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These stories were published Wednesday, June 15, 2005, in Vol. 5, No. 117
Jo Stuart
About us
Chk ths fr yr nw psswrd fr Bnc Ncnl
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The folks at Banco Nacional de Costa Rica leave very little to chance.

And they have tough computers that follow the rules carefully.

Take their computerized banking system. Perhaps you thought you could use your dog’s name as a password, called clave in Spanish. Nope!

Rule No. 3: You can’t use vowels. A, E, I, O, U, and sometimes Y are out. So the final password is an unpronounceable jumble.

Even more unpronounceable because of Rule No. 1: Your password MUST contain letters and numbers.

So how about something easy like xxx2x. Nope again!

Rule No. 2: You have to have a minimum of eight characters and a maximum of 16.

Rule No. 6: You can’t repeat a letter or number.

But that’s OK. You can memorize your long-term password even if the task is difficult. Wrong! Rule No. 5: A password can only be used for 120 days. Then the computer insists you change it.

Well, maybe you can just punch in the old password when the computer insists you change it. Wrong. Rule No. 7: Your new password cannot be the same as the present one.


Yeah, but maybe you can alternate. Like between rg56mcjk and pdqsjr43. Wrong again. Rule No. 8: Your password cannot be the same as the last 12 you have used.

How about just punching in a dozen passwords so you can revert back to the one you have taken so long to memorize? Nope! See Rule No. 4: The minimum period that a password is active is one day.

In fact, the system is so tight and so ridden with rules that an electronic banking user has no alternative but to write down the new, unpronounceable password on a little piece of paper, thereby making the account highly susceptible to piracy.

So much for security.

Lawmakers plan a vote Monday on digital signature proposal
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Lawmakers plan to take a second vote Monday on a proposal to allow electronic documents to have equal weight with those now on paper.

The so-called digital signature measure received a first round approval Tuesday night in the Asamblea Legislativa.

According to Federico Malavassi, a deputy, the measure can eliminate steps in the judicial process, particularly now that judicial offices have adequate technology to participate in such a plan.

Malavassi, a member of the legislative committee that brought the bill to the floor, said that a notary in any part of the country could send a deed under the appropriate electronic 

protocols to the Registro Nacional for filing.  He is a member of Movimiento Libertario.

Laura Chinchilla, also a member of the committee, said that the measure as written would give legal status and judicial recognition to documents that are now circulating electronically throughout the country. She represents the Partido Liberación Nacional.

However, Rodrigo Alberto Carazo of Partido Acción Ciudadana, said that he and others had doubts about the bill. So the final vote was put off until Monday so he and others could study the wording.

Deputies thought so much of the measure that they moved it from 72nd to first place for the Tuesday vote by suspending action on other pending bills in order to pass it 40-2.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, June 15, 2005, Vol. 5, No. 117

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Art Smiley and book where his work appears

Escazú photo pro snags
space in prestigious book

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Photographer Art Smiley, a local professional photographer, has landed six submissions in "Camera Craftsmen 2005."  The book is published every five years by the prestigious Camera Craftsmen, an organization composed of 40 top photographers.  He was invited to join in 1983.

The organization just celebrated its 100th anniversary and meets annually in a different location throughout the world. 

Six years ago, he retired from professional photography and moved to Escazú, where he now lives with Maria Elieth, a native of Costa Rica. He has three grown children, Russ, Todd and Fawn, all who live in the States. 

The Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. started the Cleveland native in his career behind the shutter.  They sent him to a subsidiary, Kelly Springfield Tires.  When Goodyear asked him to return, "I got tired of all the bureaucracy," he said, so he set out on his own.  He shot portraits and then became a pictorial portraitist, a discipline that still works with portraits but shuns studios to work exclusively within reality.

He still prefers to work alone, and many of his hobbies including building furniture and tinkering with motorcycles are also solo activities. 

Smiley has conducted seminars and exhibited his work in Beijing, Moscow, Amsterdam, Madrid, Thailand, Mexico, Manila, Canada and throughout the U.S.

In China, he was invited by the Chinese Government to an exhibition with no particular theme but showcased his talents as well as those of four other international photographers. 

He has a master’s of photography from the Professional Photographers of America and was awarded fellowships with the American Society of Photography and the British Institute of Professional Photographers.

U.S. passport center hikes
hours for live support

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The U.S. National Passport Information Center said Tuesday that it had expanded its hours of live customer service assistance by an additional five hours. 

Live operator assistance is now available from 7 a.m. to midnight, Eastern Standard Time, Monday through Friday, except federal holidays.  During these hours, customers with questions about U.S. passport applications may speak directly with customer service representatives.  Live customer service TDD/TDY operators are also available for customers with hearing impairments, the announcement said.

The demand for live customer service from the National Passport Information Center has risen to unprecedented levels due to the record number of passport applications being received by the Department of State's Passport Services, said the announcement.  Over 8.8 million passport applications were issued in 2004, an increase of 22 percent over the previous year, and applications to date this year are up by another 14 percent, the announcement said.

 Passport customers may continue to contact the National Passport Information Center at any time during the day or night for automated information or, if a passport is needed within 14 days, to make an appointment at a Passport Agency. 

The National Passport Information Center's toll free number is  1-877-487-2778 (TDD/TDY: 1-888-874-7793).  Customers may also visit the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs Web site at <> for how to apply for a U.S. passport, to download or print application forms or to locate the nearest passport application acceptance facility. 

Plantation of pot found
but without farmers

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Law officers encountered what they called a great plantation of marijuana Tuesday in La Teresa de La Rita de Pococí.

Fuerza Pública officers said they had been following the trail of marijuana producers for some days.

Comisionado Pablo Bertozzi, director of the Fuerza Pública in the province of Limón, said that more than 3,000 plants about five feet high were encountered as well as some 1,500 plants cut and drying. Also confiscated was 10 kilos (22 pounds) of marijuana seeds and some sacks of chopped and dried marijuana.

No one was arrested, although police want to talk to the owner of the property on which the plants were found.

Murderer of schoolgirl
will serve his term

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Sala III, the nation’s highest criminal court, has confirmed the 30-year sentence handed down to Jorge Sánchez Madrigal last Nov. 22.

He is the man convicted of abducting and killing an 8-year-old school girl in Barrio Quesada Durán July 4, 2003.  She was Katia Vanessa González Juárez, a neighbor.

Review by the high criminal court is normal in major cases, and the Madrigal defense filed an appeal which was dismissed.

Madrigal has the distinction of having murdered two women under similar circumstances. While he was still a minor, he abducted, raped and murdered a 13-year-old. That was in Heredia in 1983 when he was just 17.

In 1992 he got seven years for rape and attempted murder.

Madrigal is believed to have offered the González girl a rabbit as a pet in order to entice her into his home where she was found buried under the floorboards.

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Solís riles local Republicans with Mafia comparison
By Jesse Froehling
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Ottón Solís told Republicans Tuesday that they probably would disagree with him. And they sure did.

The topic was the free trade treaty between the United States and Central American nations.

Solís, the presumed Costa Rican presidential candidate of the Partido Acción Ciudadana, opposes the agreement. Most of his audience, members of Republicans Abroad, voted for George Bush and favor the treaty.

The air got a little thick when Solís said many Costa Ricans equate the attitude of U.S. policymakers to that of the Mafia.

Solís seemed to know he was in for trouble when he attempted to butter up the crowd when he first assured them that his and their values were the same.  He also reminded them that he was a member of the Costa Rican congress that voted to join the World Trade Organization. He assured them that he hoped eventually an agreement could be reached.  But in the end he admitted, "I'm sure you will disagree with me." 

The crowd listened respectfully as he listed many of his reasons for opposing the treaty. But audience members grew restless when he used the word  Mafia in attempting to describe how many Ticos feel about what he characterized as the U.S. heavy-handedness in pressing for the treaty. 

Solís stated that the free trade treaty, known as CAFTA, if it is a peaceful and democratic treaty, should not be signed with countries with "gun barrels to their heads."  He grew visibly more animated as he described his conversations in Costa Rican schools when he said students asked him why Costa Rica is being bullied into signing the agreement.  Their perception of the U.S. pressure to sign he said, was that of the Mafia forcing its way on people.

Mike Hartill of Barranca was the first to interrupt Solís when Hartill grew tired of the Mafia comparisons.  When Solís attempted to explain that this was the perception of many Ticos, Hartill retorted, "Well you guys are the ones with three presidents in jail."

Before the outburst, Solís listed many of his reasons for opposing CAFTA among which were an assurance that the treaty was not really in favor of free trade because of the U.S. subsidies and tariffs involved.  He also said he was opposed because the document treats all Central American countries alike. Because Costa Rica's literacy rates and median income levels are higher, and its infant mortality rate is lower, it should not be treated 

A.M. Costa Rica/Jesse Froehling
Ottón Solís presents his views

the same as the other countries in the agreement, he said.

El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala have ratified the treaty. The U.S. congress is holding hearings on the treaty now. Costa Rican President Abel Pacheco has declined to send the measure to the Asamblea Nacional for ratification.

The other opposition by Solís included the tighter environmental restrictions because he said such measures are harder to enforce. He favors a reward system for environmental protection.  Also, he is opposed to opening borders to foreign investors without financial aid to compensate the local economy, and he is against U.S. commercial involvement in domestic affairs like the electricity and telecommunications industries.

"No rich country became rich with the policies CAFTA asks us to embrace," he said.  "We deserve more respect from countries like yours who defend values like ours." 

After the Mafia exchange, Chairwoman Frances Givens quickly stepped in to shift to a question-and-answer period.  Many people expressed concerns over current environmental policies and suggested that current Costa Rican domestic policies were not limiting corruption or poverty, and that maybe foreign involvement is necessary. 

When the questions concluded, Givens presented Solís with a Republicans Abroad pin and thanked him.  Solís then quickly left.  Several people present were opposed to Solís' opinions but impressed with his speech. 

"He didn't back down," said John Landreth of Rohrmoser, " and unlike many politicians he seems to have actually read the document." 

Ex-President Rodríguez told to spend four more months at home
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

There will be no evening trips to la POPS for a double dip cone or burgers and a coke at McDonald’s for former president Miguel Ángel Rodríguez anytime soon.

The Juzgado Penal del II Circuito gave him four more months of house arrest Tuesday while an investigation into possible corruption continues.

The former president has been implicated in the scandal involving the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad and the French firm Alcaltel and a contract 

by which the company would install lines for celluar telephones.

The allegations were strong enough that Rodríguez gave up his new job as general secretary of the Organization of American States in October to come back to Costa Rica where he was jailed. The case is under investigation by the Fiscalía Adjunta de Delitos Económicos y Anticorrupción. Liliana Cordero, a judge in the II circuito made the decision. Rodríguez will be confined to his home until Oct. 14, according to the judicial order that was confirmed by an e-mail from the press office of the Poder Judicial.

Slight increase estimated in Latin coca production
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

BRUSSELS, Belgium — Coca production in the three countries comprising the Andean region rose by an overall 3 per cent in 2004, with worrisome increases in Bolivia and Peru offsetting a sharp decline in Colombia, according to a United Nations survey.

The U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime reported in its 2004 Andean Coca Surveys for Bolivia, Colombia and Peru, that coca cultivation fell by 50 per cent in Colombia since 2000, and despite the slight overall increase in the region last year, coca cultivation in the Andean region is still a third less than it was in 2000. 

"The increase in Bolivia and Peru is worrisome. After the sustained decline in the Andean region during the past five years, however, it is too early to characterize the increase in 2004 as a trend reversal," said Antonio Maria Costa, director of the Office on Drugs and Crime.

Costa commented on the report at the European Commission headquarters here.

Coca cultivation increased by 17 per cent to 27,700 hectares in Bolivia — mainly in the Chapare region — during 2004, the statement said, adding, the 2004 level is still well below the peaks seen during the 1990s. A hectare is 2.47 acres. Peru's coca land grew by 14 per cent in 2004 to 50,300 hectares, which was approximately the same area of land under cultivation in 1998, said the report 

Costa called on U.N. member states, especially in Europe where one-third of Andean cocaine is consumed, to step up efforts to foster alternative livelihood programs aimed at steering farmers away from coca cultivation.

"Less than 0.1 per cent of the arable and forest land in all three countries is under coca cultivation. This means that, with the right support, the Andean region can beat back coca cultivation," Costa said.

U.S. envoy in Bolivia reports positive meeting with new president
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Secretary-General Kofi Annan's personal envoy to Bolivia, José Antonio Ocampo, has had a positive meeting with the new Bolivian president on efforts to hold elections and build institutions in the country, the United Nations said Tuesday.

Ocampo met with the new president, Eduardo Rodríguez, as part of his mission to assess how the United Nations can be helpful to Bolivia as it tackles the political transition and economic issues, the U.N. said.

Announcing plans to send Ocampo to Bolivia late last week, Annan said through a spokesman that he strongly believes that Bolivians should resolve their differences peacefully and democratically and that the rule of law should be respected in resolving the current political crisis in the country. Ocampo plans to stay in Bolivia through Thursday and to return to New York Friday in order to report on his mission, the U.N. said.

The nation has been wracked with protests by mostly Indian citizens who are demanding nationalization of the natural gas concessions.

Jo Stuart
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