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(506) 223-1327               Published Wednesday, June 27, 2007, in Vol. 7, No. 126               E-mail us   
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Industrial Maintenance Divers photo
Industrial Maintenance Divers photo
Cable splices are held high above water awaiting permanent repair in the Caribbean waters off Nicaragua. Rafts are at both ends of temporary fix.

Limón firm gets the call again to fix undersea Internet cable
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Underwater experts based in Limón got the call again last week to fix the ARCOS fiber optic cable that carries much of Costa Rica's Internet traffic.

Working in 60 feet of water off Puerto Cabeza, Nicaragua, technicians for the firm, Industrial Maintenance Divers, found the spot where they presume a fishing boat threw out an anchor and snagged the cable.

Divers used time and distance measurements from the land station to zero in on the break.

The firm reported it received the emergency call Friday morning and had the break fixed
temporarily by 2 p.m. Sunday. Costa Rican Internet users could see the difference as connection speeds reverted to normal velocities.

The firm had to replace about 40 meters of cable, and used land cable and a land splice to make the fix. The points of the splice were kept above sea level by small rafts awaiting the arrival of a ship with the special equipment to make watertight connections that would endure undersea.

Both the ARCOS and the MAYA undersea cables had problems last week, reducing the speeds of connections in Costa Rica and cutting off a large section of South America completely from a junction point in Florida where worldwide signals enter the Caribbean net.

Bandits terrorize and beat up a U.S. expat couple near Dominical
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A U.S. expat couple was beaten and terrorized by bandits who invaded their home on the central Pacific Coast Tuesday afternoon.

The crime happened in the community of Hatillo, which is about 35 kilometers (22 miles) south of Quepos and not far from Dominical to the south.

According to a family member, the couple, Mr. and Mrs. Bruce Warner, suffered injuries from beatings administered by the violent bandits to get them to open a safe in their home. The pair were treated at the Hospital de Quepos.

According to Brian Warner of Denver, Colorado, his mother was confronted by five armed individuals about 1 p.m. outside the family home. They took her inside and tried to force her to reveal the combination to the safe, but she probably did not know it, he said.

Bruce Warner returned home from Hatillo Centro about that time only to be confronted by the robbers. He eventually surrendered the combination to the safe after suffering a severe beating, said the son. Bandits took jewelry, important papers, electronic equipment and cash.

Bruce Warner spoke briefly to a reporter Tuesday night to say that he would head back home after hospital treatment. The couple has been here about seven years, the son said.
The son said he believed that the robbers either handcuffed his parents or tied them up. This tactic is consistent with other home invasion crimes, mainly in the Central Valley. However, such crimes are growing in frequency in the Pacific coast region.

The robbers fled in a silver vehicle, according to the son, who said that police were on the alert. The main road in that area is Route 34, the Costenera Sur, which connects Quepos with Dominical. However, there was no report of police stopping such a vehicle. From Hatillo in a few minutes a driver could be on the Dominical-San Isidro and within a half hour on the Interamericana.

In one well-known home invasion, gunmen murdered a maid and a neighbor at the Rohrmoser home of Ricardo Toledo, a former presidential candidate March 21. He wife was beaten and suffered fractures of the arm and shoulder.

The day before a Jacó woman, a U.S. pensionado, survived a brutal robbery when two men broke into her home at night.

A continuing survey of just the Escazú and Santa Ana areas shows that such violent home invasions take place about three times a week even though Central Valley homes usually have high security.
The Hatillo case suggests that bandits are looking for easier targets in beach areas where the homes might not be as well protected and police are further away.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, June 27, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 126

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Asociación Cívica Cultural de Aqueserrí photo
Contestants move at speeds quicker than the camera to make tamales in last year's contest in Aserrí.

Aserri tamal makers primed
for big contest this Friday

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The big event Friday in Aserrí is what is called  La Tamaleada in which local tamal makers work to produce the most in a specified period. This year there will be money prizes.

The Centro de Investigación y Conservación del Patrimonio Cultural pointed out Tuesday that the tamal goes back to pre-Columbian times. In Aserrí, the national headquarters of tamal manufacturers, the centro credits the Chacón family with starting the first such business there with pork tamales in 1947. Now there are many such companies there, and they get a big workout around Christmas because the tamal is the traditional Yule treat.

The Expoferia Turística del Tamal begins Friday and runs through Sunday with all the events that can be expected in a cantonal festival, including dancing, parades and even an ox cart display

Organizers wanted potential visitors to know that they will be preparing traditional chicharrones, too. The tamal-making contest will begin at 8:30 p.m.

The tamales begin as a flour dough, masa, in the center of a rectangle of banana leaves. Meat (usually pork), vegetables, olives and seasonings are then placed on the dough which is then wrapped up in even more banana leaves. Two tamales, called a piña, are tied together and boiled, sometimes in giant cauldrons. The dough bakes in the waterproof wrapping. The final consumer adds toppings like salsa ingelsa or salsa criolla or even tabasco.

Petroleum costs fueling
increases in electric rates

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The agency that regulates utility rates approved an increase Tuesday for the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad to make up for anticipated increased spending on petroleum to fuel generators.

The increase will produce hikes in residential electric rates because most of the electricity comes from the institute. Individual rate hikes were authorized for distribution firms.

The Autoridad Reguladora de los Servicios Públicos announced an increase averaging about 7.24 percent for the  Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad. The company said it will spend 36.5 billion colons, about $70 million, for petroleum products during 2007 to run generators.

Customers of distributing companies will see increases of from 5 to 7 percent. For example, the Compañía Nacional de Fuerza y Luz, S.A. will have a 6.97 percent increase, according to the agency's calculations. 

The increase for the Empresa de Servicios Públicos de Heredia, S.A. will be 8.5 percent, said the agency.

The Junta Administrativa del Servicio Eléctrico de Cartago will have a 7.37 increase.

The authority has sent the rate adjustment to the La Gaceta official newspaper, and the new rates will be effective the day after publication.

Motorcycle driver sought
in injury to Quepos woman

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Investigators are trying to find the driver of a motorcycle who ran down a North American woman in Quepos Saturday.

The victim, a pedestrian, was identified as Jolene Thibault, 22, a U.S. citizen. The 8 p.m. mishap took place in front of the Restaurante Rancho Jabalí, said investigators.

Ms. Thibault, a Spanish-language student at Escuela D'Amore, lives in Boca Vieja de Quepos, said investigators. She is being treated at Hospital CIMA. She suffered a number of fractures. The motorcyclist fled but left his helmet at the scene, investigators said.

Special Internet domain
set up for travel pros

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Tourism professionals who want a dot travel suffix on their Internet Web page address now have a local agency to validate their rights to the wording.

The dot travel series of domains was created for The Travel Partnership Corp., a non-profit entity in Washington, D.C. The difference between that suffix and such usual suffixes as dot com and dot net is that the dot travel suffix is reserved for those involved in the tourism industry.

The Asociación Costarricense de Profesionales en Turismo will be the authenticating agency in Costa Rica. Michael Stone, vice president of The Travel Partnership Corp., will be in town Thursday to explain the new system.

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Immigration announces a limited electronic visa system
By Arnoldo Cob Mora
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Firms doing business here will be able to use an electronic system to obtain visas for executives and technicians under a plan announced Tuesday.

The system that uses an Internet connection will allow companies to save money and time, according to officials.

The companies involved must be registered with the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería first. Then employees can use a Web page that will be up and running by Aug. 3 to provide information and documents about new executives and other key workers, said officials.

The system will not be for the general public. Businesses always have had the right to obtain work visas for key employees. This project is designed to make the process cheaper. According to Jorge Woodbridge, vice minister of Economía, Industria y Comercio, a firm will not have to duplicate some of the paperwork for multiple applications.

He used as an example a personaría juridica, a document prepared by a notary that specifies who is in control of a company. Now if a company has nine new employees, it must provide an original personaría juridica for the file of
each visa applicant. Under the proposed system the company would only have to provide one original document.

Woodbridge said this could amount to savings of 90,000 colons or about $175 because notaries charge about 10,000 colons to make an original document. The vice minister has been given the job to reduce paperwork and unnecessary procedures in government.

The system will be two-way because immigration workers can review the file of an applicant, make notations and send messages seeking changes or additional paperwork, said officials.

The Web site will be, which is not operational now, said officials.

Mario Zamora, director general of immigration, said that the system allows his agency to use its resources better and to follow step-by-step the progress of an application.

Immigration has been plagued by corruption scandals, and documents available electronically are presumed to be able to reduce such situations. One aspect mentioned was the ability to sidestep the people who hang around the immigration offices trying to help people complete the processes for a fee.

Train track checkup cites obvious bridge and crossing woes
By José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Transport officials hired a firm to inspect the route of the metropolitan passenger train.

The result? The firm said crossing signals should be installed and bridges should be maintained.

The $22,000 evaluation by the firm IMSA took place in February and March. Much of the money came from the Central American Bank of Economic Integration.

The Instituto Costarricense de Ferrocarriles is in charge of the train, which runs daily from the Universidad Latina in San Pedro to Pavas on the west. Some 70,000 persons are riding the train. The study covered much more of the track, from the university to Balsa de Atenas where officials hope a future service might begin.

The firm identified 10 bridges that need watching. One, of
course, is the span just south of the Plaza de la Democracia downtown where trains cross above Calle 15 and also those above the rivers Torres, Virilla, Bermúdez, Ciruelas and Río Grande. Also cited was the bridge at the Radial Santa Ana-San Antonio de Belén.

Trains sometimes collide with motor vehicles, mostly because the tracks run on Avenida Central and cross major roadways.

The firm cited the obvious problems at Avenida 2 by the Museo Nacional, the crossing by the Numar factory in Barrio Cuba, adjacent to Taco Bell in San Pedro and two crossings in Sabana Sur, one near the El Universal store and the other near the Ministerio de Producción.

Officials still are trying to find concessionaires to operate other train routes, including one north to the eastern section of Heredia. The Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes already lost an $850,000 loan from the European Union because it could not find someone to take over the route.

Emergency crews will take over Daniel Oduber for morning disaster simulations
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Daniel Oduber airport west of Liberia will be closed this morning while officials conduct two simulated emergencies: a hijacked plane with hostages and the crash of a hijacked plane with hostages.

Viviana Martín Salazar, president of the Consejo Técnico de Aviación Civil, said the simulated emergencies are required under various international aircraft rules at least every two years.

The airport will not allow takeoffs or landings between 8:30 a.m. and noon, according to the plan.

The first simulation involves a jet hijacked in mid flight
 with 71 passengers. Because the plane is forced to land in Liberia to take on fuel, Costa Rican officials will use negotiating techniques to free some of the passenger hostages, according to the scenario.

The second simulation also involves a hostage-taking but the plan crashes on landing allowing participation by the emergency crews in the airport and area, said the announcement. At least a half dozen law enforcement and emergency response agencies are taking part.

In these Costa Rican simulations all the hijackers and those killed in the crash are foreigners. Liberia is where many tourists land to visit Pacific coast resorts. There was no word how the disaster simulations and airport closing would affect real airline traffic.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, June 27, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 126

U.S. Senate vote revives Bush plan for immigration reform
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The U.S. Senate has voted to revive broad legislation to overhaul the nation's immigration system, after the measure was blocked by opponents earlier this month.  But the fate of the measure remains uncertain.

The Senate Tuesday voted 64 to 35 to revive the bill. Under Senate rules, at least 60 votes were necessary in the 100-seat chamber to move the bill forward.

The Senate action came shortly after President George Bush urged lawmakers to support the legislation. "I view this as an historic opportunity for Congress to act, for Congress to replace a system that is not working with one that we believe will work a lot better," said Bush.

The measure would tighten border security, create a temporary guest worker program and grant immediate legal status to millions of undocumented workers in the United States.

The bill was crafted by a group of Republican and Democratic senators and the White House after months of negotiations.

President Bush has made immigration reform a top domestic priority.  He and his aides have been intensely lobbying fellow Republicans on Capitol Hill to support the bill after Senate opponents blocked it from coming to a vote earlier this month.
The Senate's top Democrat, Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, says Republican support will be crucial to getting the bill passed in the chamber, where Democrats hold a slim majority.

"We have an immigration system that is broken and needs to be fixed," he said.  "That is what we are trying to do, is fix this.  We would be derelict in our duties if we did not make every effort to get the legislation passed."

But many Republicans question whether the bill will go far enough in securing U.S. borders and they argue it will reward immigrants who came to the United States illegally with the possibility of U.S. citizenship.

Sen. Jeff Sessions, an Alabama Republican, is a leading opponent of the legislation. "The bill is flawed," he said.  "It will not work." Sessions and other opponents say their efforts to scuttle the legislation are gaining momentum.

Prospects for the bill's passage remain unclear, with another test vote scheduled Thursday. In addition, several proposed amendments, if passed, could alter key parts of the legislation, potentially threatening the fragile coalition supporting the bill.

Among those amendments are Republican-backed measures to toughen certain penalties against illegal immigrants and Democratic-sponsored measures that would emphasize family ties in the new merit-based system proposed for future immigrants.

Two petroleum firms are now balking at Venezuela's nationalization proposal
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Two foreign oil firms have failed to reach a deal with Venezuela to hand over control of their operations in the country as required under the government's nationalization effort. Tuesday was the final day for negotiations with foreign oil firms.

Representatives of ConocoPhillips and ExxonMobil say they have not reached a deal to transfer at least 60 percent control of their operations to the government. Venezuela has been pressing all foreign firms in the nation to agree to new partnership deals that would place the government in control of the industry. Four other firms have struck a deal in recent weeks.

Late last week, President Hugo Chávez increased pressure on Conoco and Exxon telling them they can leave the country altogether if they do not agree to the new partnership agreements.

Chavez has made the oil reforms the centerpiece of his plan to create a 21st century socialist revolution in Venezuela.

Venezuelan officials and company executives have released few details about negotiations for control of drilling
equipment, infrastructure and improvements at oil sites across the nation.

David Pumphrey, senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, says ConocoPhillips and ExxonMobil have billions of dollars invested in Venezuela. He says the failure of talks suggests that the two companies felt there was little to gain from a deal with Venezuela.

"To step away from that type of sunk investment, they must have felt that both the returns to them for the long run and also the prospect that this might not be the final stage could have weighed into it as well," he said.

Pumphrey says the move by the oil firms may be the latest phase of negotiations, aimed at putting pressure back on the Venezuelan government. It is unclear, however, whether Venezuela will agree to further talks, which officials said were to conclude Tuesday.

Venezuela has said if it could not reach a partnership deal with the oil companies, it will buy them outright and pay compensation. But experts say the government's compensation would likely be far lower than what the companies would want.

México sidelines 284 top federal policemen during anti-corruption evaluations
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The Mexican government says it is evaluating 284 top federal police officers in an attempt to eliminate corruption as it fights drug trafficking.

Mexico's security minister, Genaro Garcia, said that the officers would be removed from their duties while their performance is reviewed.

Accusations of corruption often have been made against
Mexico's police force, which has been unable to stop violence between warring drug gangs. Drug-related violence has killed more than 1,000 people in Mexico this year.

Since taking office last December, Mexican President Felipe Calderón has deployed thousands of soldiers to help the police fight drug smugglers. Opposition lawmakers and human rights groups have criticized that policy. They say soldiers lack training for the task and are, therefore, more likely to commit abuses.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, June 27, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 126

U.S. national soccer team takes on Argentina Thursday night
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The U.S. national soccer team opens play in the Copa America in Maracaibo, Venezuela, Thursday night.

The game at Estadio José “Pachencho” Romero is against Argentina, and the U.S. coach, Bob Bradley, has brought a 22-man slate that includes nine members who helped win the Gold Cup final against México Sunday.

The U.S. team faces Colombia Monday at Estadio Agustin Tovar in Barinas, before finishing group play against Paraguay July 5 at Estadio Metropolitano de Futbol de Lara in Barquisimeto.  All of the games will be in humid tropical weather.
According to the U.S. Soccer Federation, the last time the U.S. competed in the tournament in 1995, the United States upset defending champion Argentina, 3-0, to advance to the quarterfinals where the team defeated Mexico and eventually finished in fourth place. Overall, the U.S. has played Argentina seven times in their history, holding a lifetime record of 2-5-0 against the South American juggernaut, said the federation.

The U.S. team is in Group C with Paraguay and Colombia in addition to Argentina. First and second place teams from each group and two teams that were third but scored more goals than other third place teams will compete in the quarterfinals July 7 and 8. Semifinals will be July 10 and 11 with the final game in Maracaibo July 15.

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