A.M. Costa Rica

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These stories were pubished Monday, June 28, 2004, in Vol. 4, No. 126
Jo Stuart
About us
Superfast Internet fails to meet its promise
By Garland M. Baker
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

When it comes to Internet, ADSL is incredibly fast. It will give you a whole new world of content at your fingertips — in a flash. Whether it’s the latest music, a CNN news video, or a streaming movie, ADSL will beam it to you at lightning speed.

The only thing that isn’t fast about it is its rollout in Costa Rica.  It is talked about much like the new highway from San José to Orotina which has been "just about done" for over 20 years.

Believe it or not, the problem started some 80 years ago —  way before the Internet.

In 1914, Telefunken, a German company, asked the Costa Rican government for authorization to commercialize wireless communications on an international level.  As with most government projects even today, there was immediate opposition which caused a counter bid by a subsidiary of United Fruit Co., the Tropical Radio Telegraph Co.

The Costa Rican government, after some debate in congress and influenced by the events of the time, World War I, decided communications to be too important to the wellbeing of Costa Rica and decided to monopolize telegraphy and wireless telephony with Law Nº 34 of April 10, 1920.

However, one year later Law Nº 47 of June 25, 1921, the concession to exploit the market was put into the hands of two private Costa Rican citizens who were electrical engineers, José Joaquín Carranza Volio and Ricardo Pacheco Lara.  The concession was to last for 25 years with an automatic extension for 20 more years.  They began the company Compañía Radiográfica Internacional de Costa Rica.

The Costa Rican government via Law Nº 3293 of June 18, 1964 mandated that once the concession ended in 1965, the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, ICE, the electric company, was to take over the firm formed in 1920.  ICE was not ready to do this, so it made a deal with the company holding the concession and created a new company called Radiográfica Costarricense S.A, or RACSA as it is known today.  Each entity was to own 50 percent of the new company, and the concession was extended for 13 more years.

At this point in 1964, the playing field was divided into two camps. RACSA controlled the rights to telex, telegraph, video conferencing, data transmission, facsimile, data and value-added services.  ICE controlled the rights to the telephone land lines.

Here is where it gets messy.

ADSL, short for Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line, is a way to transmit data over traditional copper telephone lines at speeds higher than were previously possible. Data travels downstream faster than it travels upstream, hence the name "asymmetric."  The copper telephone lines were and still are part of ICE and not RACSA.

RACSA on the other hand controls the backbone to the Internet, because based on its original mandate, it manages everything in connection with the outside world. 

In 2001 RACSA connected to the the MAYA-1 submarine cable and in 2003 to the Arcos-1 cable. Both these cable systems gave RACSA access to high speed Internet.  So why are most people in Costa Rica still using dial-up or cable connections?

Two different companies mean two different management styles, and, surprise, they can’t agree on the deployment of ADSL in Costa Rica.  Most every other country in Latin America enjoys ADSL, and Costa Rica is eating their dust.

The Fundación Comisión Asesora en Alta Tecnología de Costa Rica (Fundación CAATEC), had high hopes for the country in its publication of 2001, rating Costa Rica above the United States in ADSL deployment.

A.M. Costa Rica graphic
How ADSL works

The copper wires that are used to carry telephone lines into most homes and offices are capable of transmitting more information than is necessary to convey a telephone conversation. The extra bandwidth that the wire could support is wasted at the moment. ADSL takes advantage of this wasted bandwidth by using additional equipment to transfer data at a higher frequency than that used for voice calls. Ultimately ADSL 'squeezes' more capacity out of the same telephone line without interfering with your normal telephone services. 

A.M. Costa Rica graphic

This today is a pipe dream.  ADSL still is just a pilot project.  The technology has turned into an on-again off-again game.  You call ICE one day, and employees say they will be installing ADSL in a week. Calls a week later and another employee says the project has been postponed for a year. 

During the latest march against the Free Trade Agreement, ADSL was reduced to unusable levels by the employees as they used deliberate sabotage in support of the demonstration to put the service out of action for a long weekend.

Lately, there are so many problems with the connection and speeds with the existing ADSL in San José, companies need to have dial-up connections as backups and need to use them frequently. Once you are use to ultra fast Internet, dial-up is a frustration.

This problem is so typical in Costa Rica.  Politics and infighting get in the way of real progress.  And the bad news is that the situation doesn’t look like its going to get any better anytime soon.  There is no good news in this arena.

Costa Rica is falling behind as the world becomes increasingly reliant on information technology and e-commerce.  The country is at risk of becoming a "critical economy" as described by the Y2K Foundation and one that might not be able to keep up with the next phase of world economic growth. 

Garland M. Baker is a 32-year resident of Costa Rica who provides professional services to the international community. He can be reached at info@crexpertise.com. Baker has been part of the pilot ADSL program in Costa Rica for three years and has worked extensively with ICE to improve the service.

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Little impact seen
in controllers’ strike

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A strike by air traffic controllers has not been very effective because officials have brought in nearly 30 controllers to work the job as strikebreakers.

Except for several hours of delay Saturday morning, the 89 Costa Rican controllers have not had an impact when they stopped work.

Several international flights were delayed but not canceled Saturday, and only a few incoming flights had to make a detour.

The airports involved include Juan Santamaría in Alajuela, Tobia Bolaños in Pavas and Daniel Oduber in Liberia.

The striking controllers contend a 1994 agreement provides them with considerably more money than they now make. The Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes says pay increase should be modest.

The foreign air traffic controllers come from other Latin nations. They were given quick immigration approval Friday and took over the controller jobs by 10 a.m. Saturday.

Costa Rican controllers made no attempt to damage equipment or otherwise impede the work of the substitutes, officials said.

Gay pride marked here

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Homosexual and Lesbian Costa Ricans and their supporters staged a gay pride event at the Plaza de la Democracia Sunday to press their case for more rights.

The theme of the gathering was to demand an end to workplace discrimination and to urge legal rcognition of unions between persons of the same sex.

Our readers write

Another way to get
even with spammers

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I hate spammers!!!

I loved your story this morning giving out spammer addresses.  So, my contribution to "Operation Get Back at Spammers" is the following.

Last month I finally gave in to the pop-up "Free Red Lobster Dinner" only to be asked, first thing to enter my email address.  I have several for just this purpose so I used a "junk" one.  After entering my address, I was assured that I only had "one more page" of questions before qualifying for the $50 gift certificate.  I gave up and never completed the ridiculously long questionnaire.

Guess what? That junk e-mail address entered is now so flooded with spam I have stopped trying to "unsubscribe" and don't even use it.

Hmmmmm.  Idea!!!!  I clicked on that "Free Red Lobster Dinner" banner again and copied and pasted each and every address in your article, knowing all I had to do was click on the submit button to send the spammer address.

Did I do good?????  LOL!!!!  Let them get a taste of their own medicine!!

Miriam T. Russell 
Marysville, Ohio

Reader looks up
the phone numbers

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Whatever you do, do not contact spammers by e-mail. Your address gets captured and sold 1,000 times over because you are now on the 1/2 percent of the 1 percent who ever reply. 

Complain to your ISP. They are supposed to drop them from e-mail access  or go to www.networksolutions.com and look in the "Who Is" box.

Then you can have them blocked there or call the phone number listed. Or, when you see the e-mail address is a portal such as Yahoo, contact them, complain and they will be dropped at that level. 

By the way, matequest1@usermail.com is using www.usermail.com portal who is Brian Fonseca. A home grown boy operating out of Colorado. Give him a call. His domain name is listed with Network Solutions which also lists his telephone number (303) 955-3025. 

Finally, stay off the adult sites or at least don't join one unless you are prepared to receive spam for about two months after you cancel.  You open the message, "bang", you're captured and sold, sold and sold again to other spammers around the globe. 

John Holtz

Caribbean treaty
sent to legislature

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The executive branch has sent the proposed free trade treaty between Costa Rica and the Caribbean countries to the Asamblea Nacional for approval.

The treaty with the so-called Caricom countries does not face the strong opposition as that facing a similiar free trade treaty with the United States. 

The Caribbean treaty will open a practically virgin market of 15 million to Costa Rican services and agricultural products, said Ricardo Toledo, the minister of the Presidencia. In exchange, Costa Rica will import certain minerals not produced here.

Woman and child
stolen with car

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

As a woman in San Rafael de Alajuela tried to park her car in her garage Thursday night she was faced with a car thief who took the car and the woman and her child.

In addition to the woman, who has the last name of Calderón, a 4-year-old daughter also was in the vehicle, according to the Judicial investigating Organization.

The theft was well planned because a second car followed the stolen vehicle. The robber let the woman and child leave the car in Santa Barbara de Heredia, said investigators.
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Beware of the person who tried to steal the errand
EDITOR’S NOTE: Today we debut a column on Costa Rican language and culture by Tico Daniel Soto. 

Soto has lived in Bloomington, Indiana, since September 1983. He was born in San José, Costa Rica. One of a family of 16 children.  He studied anthropology [customs and legends of Latino America] at the Universidad de Costa Rica and the University of California at Berkeley. 

He is also involved with several volunteer organizations such as Centro Comunal Latino, a south-central Indiana community-based organization that assists newcomers to the region from Latin America to adjust to life in Indiana. These days he divides his time between Indiana and Costa Rica, where he owns a home in Santo Domingo de Heredia.

Se robó el mandado. This is a Costa Rican expression, or dicho, that is applied to people who can’t be trusted.

Literally it means "he stole the errand I asked him to do." The expression says something about the way we Costa Ricans behave toward one another in our daily lives.

To give you an example: Costa Ricans are not direct or blunt people, but are rather shy and deferential. I might ask Juan, for example, to ask Maria if she would like to dance with me. But the expression se robó el mandado applies if Juan goes to Maria and asks her for a dance rather than communicating my wish to dance with her. So I am out of luck, and Juan stole the favor (or errand, mandado) I asked him to do. 

Of course in old Costa Rica this was considered very bad form and would have meant a serious breach of confidence. Juan would quickly gain a reputation in the community that he can not be trusted because se robó el mandado.

It’s all about politeness and insecurity. Costa Ricans do not handle rejection well (but then, who does?). They would prefer to be turned down in an easy 

way we say it

By Daniel Soto

way. For example, an applicant for a position would like to hear that he was the very next one in line even if this is not true because it appears as though he had a shot, and at least he wasn’t as bad as the last guy, even if only three people applied for the same position.

The same holds true when a Costa Rican finds himself in the position of having to say "No." It is almost impossible for him or her to do it. They will answer with a question or give an excuse, but never say NO flat out. It appears to us as impolite and might hurt someone’s feelings, but more important, it could close a door and you never know when you may need a favor from this person 

I think we who have to learn a different language should be aware of this expression se robó el mandado  becuase sometimes, if we must use a translator, they have some power that we don’t have and they could withhold information from us either to protect us, or to use it later to "steal our favor." So let’s remain aware and the next time someone tries to robarse el mandado, we can say no way José: Que va chichi.

Immigration raid hits international trafficking ring
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Immigration officials say they have delivered a blow to an international ring of smugglers who tried to bring residents of mainland China into the United States.

Marco Badilla, director general of Migración, said the seven Chinese captured over the weekend at a San José hotel paid from $50,000 to $70,000 to be smuggled into the United States.

Officials said they uncovered a long route that the smugglers used to bring the individuals to Costa Rica. The seven traveled to Malaysia, Egypt, Russia, Colombia, and Panamá before reaching Juan Santamaría airport Monday.

The men were using Taiwanese passports that had been altered to include their photographs, officials said.

Badilla’s immigration police took strong security measures because a similar group of some 20 illegal Chinese were the objective of a jail break attempt by gunmen in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, last week, they said.

The persons who helped move the Chinese nationals include some members of the Taiwanese community in Costa Rica, said Badilla.
He said that three persons, presumed coyotes or human smugglers, were detained during the Saturday arrests but they had to be let go because such activity is not illegal in Costa Rica.

He coupled his announcement of the arrests with a call to national deputies to pass the pending new immigration law that would criminalize such activity.

Fuerza Pública officers in San José under Commandant Eduardo Guzmán participated in the raid.

One of the illegal Chinese attempted to flee when officers staged their surprise raid at the hotel, but the man was wrestled to the ground, according to a 

Humberto Ballestero/Ministerio de Seguirdad
Authentic Taiwanese passports were doctored to include the photos of nationals from mainland China.

report by the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública.

Officials presume the men were being kept here while plans were made to move them into the United States. 

Guzmán said that the detention of other Chinese might take place.

Meanwhile, near Golfito in the southwest of Costa Rica, police at a checkpoint detained five persons from Peru as well as two Colombians.

In all, immigration officials said they had detained 36 foreigners here illegally in the last week. The bulk were from Latin America and were detailed near the border with Panamá. 

Saturn's moon Phoebe contains carbon compounds
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Phoebe, one of Saturn's moons, is a cold, icy rock bearing carbon-containing compounds, according to observations sent back to Earth by Cassini, an unmanned spacecraft now moving toward Saturn. 

Cassini passed closest to Phoebe June 11 and is supposed to enter Saturn's orbit Wednesday.

The probe is set to become the first spacecraft ever to orbit Saturn. The Cassini program is an international cooperative effort involving NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Italian space agency, Agenzia Spaziale Italiana (ASI), as well as several separate European academic and industrial contributors.

According to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory,  scientists have analyzed the data transmitted by Cassini and believe that Phoebe is made of material 

similar to that forming Pluto and the Neptune moon, Triton. That finding is consistent with the scientific theory that bodies of this kind were plentiful in the outer reaches of the solar system about four and a half billion years ago. 

These small bodies, known as planetesimals, formed the building blocks of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. Other planetesimals formed the Kuiper Belt, a region of icy space debris that is 12 to 15 billion miles from the sun. The data from Cassini provide scientists with the first close look they have ever had of a planetesimal. 

"In two short weeks, we have added more to what we know about Phoebe than we had learned about it since it was discovered 100 years ago," said Dennis Matson, project scientist of the Cassini-Huygens mission. Huygens is the probe riding on the Cassini craft that will explore Titan, another Saturn moon.

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Canadian election is expected to be a close one
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services 

A national election in Canada today is likely to be one of the tightest in the country's history, and could lead to the formation of the first minority government in decades. What was once thought to be a boring campaign has turned into a close fight between the governing Liberals and the Conservatives. 

The most recent opinion polls show the governing Liberal Party of Prime Minister Paul Martin in a statistical tie with the Conservative Party of Stephen Harper.

Since Martin took over the nation's top job from former Prime Minister Jean Chretien in December, support for the liberals has gradually eroded. Polls show both parties are now garnering about 29 to 32 percent of the popular vote, with the remaining support going to other parties. These include the left-wing New Democratic Party, the separatist Bloc Quebecois in Quebec, and the Green Party, which has yet to win in any federal election.

Polls in this type of election should be taken with a grain of salt.

Canada follows the British Parliamentary system, which means voters do not directly elect the prime minister, but members of Parliament. The party with the most seats in Parliament usually is asked to form a government, and the party leader generally becomes prime minister. In this election, Canadians are casting ballots for 308 parliamentary seats.

Political scientist Ron Cheffins of the University of Victoria says the main issue has been the sponsorship scandal, which saw millions of dollars diverted to Liberal-friendly advertising agencies. The money was originally intended to fight Quebec independence by improving Canada's image in the French-speaking province. The Liberals have also faced accusations of wasting money on a gun registry and employment initiatives.

Cheffins said the campaign was unusually negative. "I can't think of any highlights to speak of. It was one of the meanest, most vicious-spirited, negative campaigns I've seen in my life. The governing Liberal Party, which assumes it has a divine right 

to rule, launched a massive demonization campaign against the conservatives, which is their usual tactic. They did it against the previous conservative leader of the alliance, as they were called, but this has exceeded it. They have characterized Stephen Harper, the Conservative leader as being, if not quite the devil, probably his lieutenant," he said.

During a campaign stop in Vancouver's Chinatown this past week, Prime Minister Martin told a packed restaurant, if Canadians elect Harper and the conservatives, they would get a vastly different Canada. "In this campaign, we the government, seek a mandate from the people. We come before the nation with a record of achievement, and we face a party and leader that have a very different view of what Canada should be. Let me just go through some of the differences. I want to respect our commitments to the court on climate change. Stephen Harper would tear up Kyoto and he would renege on Canada's pledge," he said. "I want to build a military that will look to peacekeeping and peace-making. And Stephen Harper wants to fight the Cold War all over again, and build aircraft carriers. No!"

Prior to becoming prime minister, Martin served as Canada's finance minister for most of the past decade.

Harper has been focusing his Conservative Party campaign on the sponsorship scandal, and what he says is mis-management of Canada's finances. "Ladies and gentlemen, Paul Martin has no more credibility on healthcare funding than he has on spending control," he said. "And on that, this government has so little credibility that we have to turn to the auditor general, to judicial inquiries, to police investigations to find out where our money is. 

"You know, this guy has the gall to suggest I or anyone else has hidden agendas. Don't talk about hidden agendas, until you can find out what you did with our money, Mr. Martin." 

Like many of his academic colleagues, Cheffins says the Liberals are likely to lose their majority in Parliament, and will have to form a minority government, because the separatist Bloc Quebecois is likely to win in traditionally liberal areas in Quebec province. 

Mexicans march to demand better security
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

MEXICO CITY, México — Hundreds of thousands of people rallied here Sunday to protest against kidnappings and violent crime. Demonstrators were paying tribute to crime victims in Mexico's capital.

The march started from the Angel of Independence Monument and stretched to Mexico City's main square the Zocolo. Those taking part were mostly dressed in all white clothing to signify purity and peace.

Mexico has the second-highest number of kidnappings in the world, with some 3,000 reported cases last year. But most kidnappings go unreported because of a lack of faith in the justice system, some say. 

Student Barbara Martinez said the Mexican authorities, especially the police, must better organize themselves to effectively combat kidnapping. "I really want to feel safe. If I am out at night at 10  o'clock and I see a policeman, I want to feel that he is going to protect me and I don't want to be afraid of him. I think that is the key, not being afraid of the people who are supposedly going to take care of us," she said.

Businessman Andres Lajous said Mexican authorities, especially the administration of President Vicente Fox, must take action. "Well yes it can be done. I just think that the authorities have to do something and really take it seriously and I think this meeting will help the authorities realize that they have to do something fast, because we really can't stand it anymore. I mean people are scared, I am scared. Everybody is scared at night," he said.

Office worker Humberto Bravo said that, in the past, kidnappers abducted the wealthy. But now as Mexico's economic crisis worsens, everyone is a target. One of my close friends was a girl that was liberated for $300. After 20 hours of being kidnapped, they wanted $300,000, but saw that the family has no money. She was liberated for $300 only," he said.

The marchers finally broke their silence by singing Mexico's national anthem. 

Many chanted slogans saying the situation has gotten out of hand. A recent report released by the Mexican Employers Association called Copamex, says that during the last seven years, the level of kidnapping has increased by 740 percent. 

Jo Stuart
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