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(506) 2223-1327       Published Monday, July 13, 2009,  in Vol. 9, No. 136       E-mail us
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Restrictions sought on identifying juvenile offenders
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A children's advocacy group is urging the supreme court to restrict publication of the faces and names of juvenile offenders. The group, Defensa de Niñas y Niños Internacional, sent an open letter to the court following a decision involving a television interview of a juvenile suspect.

The group, in a letter over the signature of president Virginia Murillo Herrera, said that the goal is to change the negative public perceptions that stigmatize and criminalize adolescents.

The letter said the group wanted an obligatory requirement for the news media to follow the lead of the supreme court and the United Nations.

The Sala IV of the Corte Suprema de la Justicia did not find against Channel 7 but against government officials in its latest decision. In that case a sometimes reluctant jailed youth gave an interview on camera against the advice of his mother and lawyer.

The youth's face was not shown but the television station included footage of a raid at his home where he was arrested and other visual information that could identify him, the court said. The television reporter also characterized him as a gun-wielding threat to the neighborhood.

The court relied on constitutional guarantees of intimacy and privacy as well as United Nations declarations. The decision overrides a 2008 decision that threw out a complaint against El Diario Extra.

The Defensa de Niñas and Niños has been highly critical of La Extra for some time. Ms. Murillo points out that it filed a complaint March 30, 2007, after two reporters published the name of a youth who was arrested in the bloody invasion of the home of former presidential candidate Ricardo Toledo. The complaint was filed with the Patronato Nacional de la Infancia. The publication was in La Prensa Libre, which is owned by the Extra group.

The teen was one of a group of individuals who broke into the home, roughed up Toledo's wife, killed a maid and then killed a neighbor on a balcony across the street who came out to see what was taking place. The youth is believed to have been the triggerman.

On July 24, 2007, Defensa de Niñas and Niños filed
another complaint when La Extra published the fact that the same 17-year-old youth was facing trial in the murder of the two persons. The newspaper used the name.

The organization complained again Oct. 11, 2007, when the same newspaper published a photo and name of a minor linked to a series of murders. The newspaper put a black line over the youth's eyes, but the organization said that was not enough.

That publication resulted in a Sala IV case in which the Sala IV held that the publication was in the public interest.

The Defensa de Niñas y Niños said the state should protect the image, name, identity and dignity of juveniles involved in the penal process.

The juvenile justice system is under stress now because of the increase in the number and severity of the cases. In addition, adults are using juveniles for criminal purposes with the knowledge that youngsters, if caught, face a much lighter penalty. For example, just last week the Juzgado Penal Juvenil de San José sentenced a young robber to seven years confinement, close to the maximum for a juvenile offender. An adult would have gotten more time.

Courts in the United States are divided on this issue. Some states have laws restricting access to juvenile proceedings. Other states keep the hearings open. There is little independent study on the impact of publicity in such cases or the impact on other juveniles who see their peers haled into court.

A 1979 U.S. Supreme Court decision has made it clear that publications there cannot be forbidden to publish names and other information about juveniles if they obtain the data in a legal way. Those who wish to censor the names of children have to rely on restricting access or statements by public officials, as in the Sala IV decision here.

Newspaper editors usually contend that by restricting access and availability of names, the courts make it much more difficult to keep track of how the juvenile justice system is operating.

The U.S. version of the Costa Rican organization, the Children's Defense Fund, has as one of its goals to "shift the response to juvenile offenders from punishment and incarceration to prevention and early intervention."


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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, July 13, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 136

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World Court backs Costa Rica
in Río San Juan dispute

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The International Court of Justice, the principal judicial  organ of the United Nations, has found unanimously that Costa Rica has the right of free navigation on the Río San Juan for purposes of commerce, including passengers and tourists.

The decision was read in court today in The Hague, The Netherlands, and also was posted on the court's Web site. The decision gives Costa Rica most of what it had insisted was its rights under an 1858 treaty. The decision is is final, binding and without the right of appeal.

The court also found, 9 to 5, that persons traveling on the Río San Juan on board Costa Rican  vessels exercising Costa Rica’s right of free navigation are not required to obtain Nicaraguan visas.

The court also decided unanimously that persons traveling on the Río San Juan on board Costa Rican vessels are not required to purchase Nicaraguan tourist cards.

The court found 13 to 1,  that the inhabitants of the Costa Rican bank of the Río San Juan have the right to navigate on the river between the riparian communities for the purposes of the  essential needs of everyday life which require expeditious transportation. By a vote of 12 to 2, the court found that Costa Rica has the right of navigation on the Río San Juan with official vessels used solely, in specific situations, to provide essential services for the inhabitants of the area.

However, the court ruled unanimously that Costa Rica does not have the right of navigation on the Río San Juan with vessels carrying out police functions. It also found unanimously that Costa Rica does not have the right of navigation on the Río San Juan  for the purposes of the exchange of personnel of the police border posts along the south bank of  the river and of the re-supply of these posts, with official equipment, including service arms and ammunition.

It was Nicaragua's decision to prevent Costa Rican police from traveling on the river that was the final straw that propelled this case into the World Court in 2005.

The court also found unanimously that Nicaragua has the right to require Costa Rican vessels and their  passengers to stop at the first and last Nicaraguan post on their route along the Río San Juan and to require persons traveling on the river to carry a passport or an identity document;

Nicaragua also has the right to issue departure clearance certificates to  Costa Rican vessels exercising Costa Rica’s right of free navigation but does not have the right
to request the payment of a charge for the issuance of such certificates, the court said.

In addition, Nicaragua has the right to impose timetables for navigating on the Río San Juan and has the right to require Costa Rican vessels fitted with masts or turrets to display the Nicaraguan flag, said the court.

The court also backed, 13 to 1, the right of Costa Rican inhabitants along the river to fish for subsistence purposes.

The court found that Nicaragua was not acting in accordance with its obligations under the 1858 treaty when it requires persons traveling on the Río San Juan on board Costa Rican  vessels exercising Costa Rica’s right of free navigation to obtain Nicaraguan visas or to purchase tourist cards.

The dispute stems from the way the boundary was drawn between the two countries. Instead of the center line of the river being the boundary, the dividing line is the south bank of the river from Castillo Viejo to the river mouth. Costa Rica did not contest that the river belongs to Nicaragua but it demanded the right of free passage.

The dispute boiled down to the meaning of the phrase "for the purposes of commerce" or in Spanish  con objetos de comercio. Costa Rica sought and the court granted a broad definition.

This has been a topic of irritation for years between Costa Rica and Nicaragua.  The issue became critical five years ago when Nicaragua began forbidding Costa Rican police from carrying their service weapons on the river. The river is frequently the quickest route from one point in Costa Rica to another, so the Abel Pacheco government protested. Eventually the case was filed at the Hague in 2005. The court did not support Costa Rica on that point.

Bus passengers from Panamá
experience strange ride


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The ride was a strange one for through passengers on a bus from Panamá. The Fuerza Pública at the Panamá border got word Saturday that a bus might be heading north with cocaine hidden in the luggage compartment, according to Allan Obando, regional head of the force.

Costa Ricans shared this information with their counterparts on Panamá, and word reached them that police in Panamá had detained three persons and found 22 kilos of cocaine when they stopped the bus sought of David, Panamá.  That was about 3 a.m.

Once the bus reached Costa Rica, Fuerza Pública officers searched it again and found three more kilos of cocaine, they reported.

Finally the bus continued its trip north to Piedras Blancas and the Nicaraguan border. But some passengers noticed an unusual behavior by the driver and called police again. At the border Costa Rica officials against searched the bus and turned up eight kilos of cocaine that they said was the property of the driver, a Costa Rican. This was about 8 p.m.

Seniors get special care
when reporting crime

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Judicial Investigating Organization has set up a special system for persons 65 and older who wish to file a criminal complaint. So far this year, some 943 of these seniors have filed complaints with robbery and theft being the major reasons, according to the Poder Judicial.

The judiciary computer system will mark a file relating to a senior citizen victim with a special color, terracotta, that will alert workers that they are dealing with a case involving someone over the age of 65, said the Poder judicial.

Guadalupe fire destroys
downtown furniture shop

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Fire in the center of Guadalupe Sunday afternoon destroyed the Mueblería la Princesa and did damage to adjacent structures.

The two-story furniture store burned fiercely. The fire was fed in part by the new furniture there. A nearby used clothing store lost some of its inventory to the flames.

Our reader's opinion
Expats should not complain
or they should go home

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

It's obvious that the main reason most expats moved here was that it's "cheaper" than the States or Europe. In other words, they want something for nothing and could care less about anybody but themselves.

Now that they are here, what do they do? Bitch and moan about the so-called high prices of food, electricity, etc., just like they did in their prior homeland. They delight in under-paying service people while at the same time complain about high costs. What high costs?

Electricity for example: There is no need for heating or air-conditioning, two large consumers of electricity. Want to reduce your bill further? Stop watching so much television. Of course they never complain that municipal taxes on their houses, if they own, are ridiculously low. The difference between what they pay in taxes and what they paid on homes where they came from more than compensates for what they claim are high prices on goods and services.

When I think about expats telling me that, due to my choice to pay people well for service, "you're spoiling it for the rest of us," I can't help but laugh. Sorry,folks, but our values are obviously different.

I do, however, have one complaint about Costa Rica. That is the attitude of the Tico Ricos toward the average citizen. Frankly, they don't care. They grossly underpay employees, police, etc., while living in their beautiful houses with their security guards. Check out all the high-end cars. They aren't all driven by the wives of Intel executives.

Sadly, greedy Gringo employers and other typical ex-pats follow suit, and are here only to take, never give. This is a wonderful country. Stop undermining it. Don't like it? Go home.
Barry Schwartz 
Escazú

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, July 13, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 136

Chlor free



Spectrum report shows there is room for cell phone firms
By Dennis Rogers
Special from The CAFTA Report

The new Superindendencia de Telecomunicaciones, known as SUTEL, has produced a report on the status of mobile telephony in Costa Rica. The report gives data on spectrum use from December 2008 to May 2009.

The national telecommunications plan has the start of bidding in October and entry into operation of new competitors in May 2010. Four bands of spectrum are available for license.

The important theme in the report is the electromagnetic spectrum in the country with recommendations for its optimization. It also touches on an analysis of the entrance of competitors to the current monopoly situation dominated by the Instituto Costarricence de Electricidad, known as ICE and referred to throughout the report as “the incumbent operator”). The 2008 telecommunications law opened up the telecom market to competition.

A preliminary study of spectrum use required concessionaries of private frequencies to report their usage. A total of 1,030 reports of 4,356 frequencies, ranging from television stations to ham radio operators arrived. Most had licenses from the old national radio control department, but fully 80 percent had missing or expired documents. The lack of legal standing for the users makes it simpler to reorganize this part of the spectrum, the report said. The study was completed in April 2009 notwithstanding an appeal by ICE alleging that the time allotted was inadequate.

Superintendencia operatives visited sites around the country with a portable spectrum analyzer to measure usage at different frequencies. Sampling was highest in the central urban areas, but rural zones were visited also. Generally usage outside the main frequencies of the ICE cell phone systems was very low, and even those have little penetration into rural areas with low population density, said the report.

In essence there are four main spectral bands with commercial applications as described by the report, the 850 MHz, 900 MHz, 1800 MHz, and 1.9-2.1 GHz. The 900 MHz band is in use by a number of small operators who will probably have to be bought out, so the report recommends that it be reserved for future applications. Elsewhere in Central America the 700 MHz band is in use, but it is not mentioned in the report.

The 850 MHz band is presently occupied in large part by ICE’s obsolete TDMA system, though the company plans to put a 3G system on those frequencies as the old one is phased out in 2009. About 350,000 TDMA lines are still active. Due to ICE’s disinterest in phone number portability, many customers have not changed over to GSM for business reasons, in addition to the long waiting lists.

If the 850 MHz band is reorganized and ICE’s control of it reduced, there is bandwidth available for as many as three new entrants. Such a reorganization will be difficult in the short term as ICE already is using any legal means possible to make entry of even small competitors difficult.

The 1800 MHz frequency is where the present ICE GSM systems are located, with 15 MHz taken up by the Ericsson system and 22 MHz by the scandal-plagued Alcatel system. The report recommends that these be combined to free up the 22 MHz used by relatively few lines, though if history is any guide ICE will resist handing over possession by any means possible. Nonetheless, the report identified two 15 MHz bands available for immediate allocation to new entrants.

The 1.9/2.1 GHz band is essentially free and is a frequency widely used for 3G systems elsewhere. The report recommends four 15 MHz bands for three new entrants and the incumbent operator.

Additionally the high frequencies used for communication between base stations are already under concession, with
Grupo ICE

ICE controlling no less than 78 percent of the 7.11-19.7 GHz range. The report suggests  a redistribution which will be legally difficult if ICE has clear control, even though it requires relatively little bandwidth for operations.

The inability of ICE to meet demand, as evidenced by long waits for a line and low market penetration, is cited as evidence of the need for multiple operators in the country. At one point in 2006 there were 200,000 people on the official waiting list, nearly 5 percent of the country’s total population.

Statistics cited in the report showed Costa Rica’s 2007 rate of cell phone lines at 34 per 100 population, below every Latin American country except Cuba. Even vastly poorer countries like Bolivia and Nicaragua had slightly higher rates. Currently the rate in Costa Rica is about 40 per 100 persons, while in El Salvador it has reached full penetration with more than one line per person.

Over the period 2004-2007, growth in most of Latin America was in excess of 100 percent, while in Costa Rica the number of lines in use went from 912,000 to 1.44 million. As of mid-2009 ICE has about 1.75 million lines in use out of an installed capacity of 2 million. The difference corresponds to the obsolete TDMA system for which handsets are difficult to obtain, and many lines are abandoned.

The main reason mentioned for such low rates of market penetration is the lack of pre-paid service. In most poor countries, irregular income can make it difficult for the lower economic classes to maintain payments on a fixed plan, so pre-payment avoids the risk of having a line cut due to non-payment.

An earlier report by the World Bank concluded that the lack of a pre-paid system was a “catastrophic strategic error” as in similar countries 70 percent of cell phone users opt for that choice.

But as a monopoly ICE seeks maximum rent per customer, and indeed average revenue per user was higher than any country in Latin America (except Panamá) in 2005. At $26.50 per user, the rate was more than twice as much as in Uruguay, a country very similar to Costa Rica in other aspects.

ICE has not offered pre-payment as an option though it has quietly introduced a system for customers with outstanding debts. The cards in question are about the same amount as the lowest basic package, and minutes expire in 30 days, so the company is not losing revenue to stingy users.

Bidding for a pre-pay system is underway but as of this month ICE’s purchase is stalled by questions of whether a Chinese company’s bid is too low for adequate performance. As a public entity, ICE still is subject to supervision by the government comptroller.

Since the other countries of Central America have four competing companies, with the exception of Nicaragua which has two, it is assumed Costa Rica can support four operators. So the report recommends that two new operators arrive simultaneously, to optimize competition both for customers and spectrum at auction.

The World Bank report states with competition the total market will expand enough that ICE maintains its customer base and even gains, while keeping a market share of about 70 percent. This would mean two new entrants would share the remaining 30 percent of the market, calculated at 3.3 million lines in the few years after entry.


Sunday was a rare day with winds, sunshine and no rain
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Sunday was one of those days for the history books.  The winds swept the rain-causing clouds away from the Central Valley, and kite salesmen had a field day.

The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional said that winds of moderate intensity would continue to sweep the country this week. That means the northern zone and the Caribbean will have some rain in the early morning hours and partly cloudy conditions through the rests of the day, the institute said.
In the Central Valley and on the Pacific Coast, there will be clouds but probably not a lot of rain.

In the capital residents are complaining about the cold. The temperature was at 19.9 C at midnight (about 67.8 F), which is enough to chill some Costa Ricans. The winds had diminished from Sunday morning and afternoon to about 12 kph or about 7 mph.

The partly cloudy skies Sunday gave rare glimpses of afternoon sunshine in the usually overcast Central Valley.


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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, July 13, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 136


Arias hopes to set new date for Honduran negotiations
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Negotiations by opposing parties in Honduras broke off unexpectedly Friday, but President Óscar Arias Sánchez said that he and his staff would continue to be mediators. He said he would seek to continue the negotiations and announce a time for the meetings to resume sometime this week.

Meanwhile, in Honduras, the interim government says it has lifted the curfew that had been in place since the June 28 coup that ousted President José Manuel Zelaya. The official statement, broadcast on radio and television, said the curfew was lifted across the country Sunday. It said the curfew had helped restore calm.

In other news, Pope Benedict XVI is calling for peaceful dialog in Honduras to ensure true democratic life there. In his Sunday blessing in St. Peter's Square, the pope said he has been following events in the overwhelmingly Catholic country with great concern.
The caretaker government in Honduras has accused Zelaya of illegally trying to change the constitution in order to extend his term. The issue has deeply divided the country, and supporters of both sides have held competing demonstrations. A teenage protester was killed last week.

Zelaya traveled from the Dominican Republic to Washington Saturday to discuss the political crisis with officials in the United States.

Both sides of the controversy appear to have adopted positions that do not suggest easy negotiations. Zelaya is calling for his immediate reinstatement following his forcible expulsion from the country.  Micheletti has said he will only discuss the ousted president's return if it involves Zelaya appearing in court to face charges of treason and abuse of power.

Presidential elections are in November in Honduras, and  Micheletti appears to be in no hurry to reach a settlement.


U.S. child abductions rampant but resolution hard overseas
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Every year in the United States, more than 200,000 children are abducted by a member of their own family, usually a parent. In many cases in which a foreign-born parent is involved, these abducted children end up far from home, usually in the native country of the abducting parent.

Under U.S. law, such abductions are a federal crime. But because they involve international jurisdictions and pursuing them can be expensive, many of these cases remain unresolved. 

Up until a few years ago, Scott Carlson was living the American dream. He had a fulfilling job, he was married to a woman he loved, and he was relishing the joys of new fatherhood.

Carlson says becoming a father was a life-changing experience.

"I spent as much time as I could with Cedric and really bonded with him. The joys of fatherhood were pretty amazing."

But Sept. 28, 2005, Carlson's life was turned upside down when his wife abducted their son at an airport in Switzerland as he and the 1-year-old child were about to board a plane for the United States.

The incident ended with Carlson taking his wife to the airport police station because she wouldn't let Cedric go with him.

The police told Carlson he wouldn't be able to take Cedric back to the United States without his mother's consent, without a court order, he says. So Carlson ended up returning to the United States by himself.

Back in Washington, D.C., he headed straight for the courts and filed for divorce, citing his wife's abduction of their child to win a judgment against her.

He was awarded full custody of Cedric, and "all rights under the divorce, because of her behavior," he says. He also filed proceedings in Switzerland under the Hague Convention on child abduction.

The Hague Convention is an international treaty that was established to facilitate the prompt return of children who have been abducted across international boundaries. Only 80 countries, however, are signatories.

Having won full custody of his son in the United States, Carlson set out to use every possible legal option to bring his son back to America. But even though Carlson is an international lawyer, he was unprepared for the legal complexities he encountered.

"The district attorney and the District of Columbia refused to do anything about it. . . . basically alluded that it was just a civil matter between feuding spouses. Then I also worked with the Office of Children's Issues at the U.S. State Department. Very, very disappointing response there." 

After his disappointing experience, Carlson turned to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, a non-profit organization that works closely with government agencies and law enforcement to assist in missing or exploited child cases.

"It is a felony for parents to remove a child from the U.S. to a foreign country," explains Maureen Heads, of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
Maureen Heads, the manager of the family abduction unit at the center, says there have been several laws enacted in the United States since 1982 to protect American children.

"There's a Missing Children's Act," she says, and also the National Child Search Assistance Act. 

"These acts help parents and require law enforcement to take missing person's reports of missing children and for children to be entered in a national missing person's database."

Costa Rica friendly to moms


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Several mothers have been successful in sidestepping U.S. indictments and the impact of the Hague Convention on child abduction with the encouragement and help of public officials here.

But the case most well-known in the United States is that of a New Jersey man whose son was taken to Brazil by his wife. After she died, the family there refused to surrender the boy. The father is David Goldman and the son is Sean.

The father has received a lot of press and television time, and U.S. officials were said to be looking into the case.

In Costa Rica, a U.S. man who comes here with an abducted child is quickly arrested and extradited. But one runaway man was given refugee status, and a court in San Ramón declined to extradite a second.


Maria Bright is another left-behind parent whose child was abducted by her estranged spouse. Her son, Anthony Calzada, was only 4 years old when her ex-husband, Freddie Calzada, took him to Bolivia in November 2008 for a vacation and never returned.

"For a mom, it's very hard, very painful. Every day I'm thinking, hoping probably he's going to call me and put Anthony on the phone."

Like Carlson, Bright also sought legal help and is working closely with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to get her son back.

Bright has two other children, an older son and a younger daughter.

"The older one is asking for his brother all the time. Everybody's missing Anthony," she says.

"We miss Anthony a lot. We have three kids, and we are missing one," says Ms. Bright. But beyond their immediate legal, financial and emotional concerns, what worries Ms.  Bright and Carlson the most is the effect the kidnappings may have had — or continue to have — on their children.

Bright says she knows her son must be asking his father about her whereabouts.

"I just believe a lot in God, and I know one day he'll be back, hopefully soon," she says.

Carlson says that Cedric is now at the age where he's meeting other children, and they're talking about their dads.

"I think he's probably feeling a little lonely and different right now, and I think he's going to feel a lot more lonely and a lot more different in the near future."

Carlson says that even with all the legal and emotional setbacks he's experienced, he remains hopeful that he will one day have his son back.

"I've always been an incorrigible optimist, and if I let this incident take that away from me, then I think I would rob Cedric of one of the greatest gifts I hope to one day give him, which is that there's a lot to love in life and there's a lot to look forward to. And even when things are bad, you can do something to change it." 

In the four years since his son was abducted, Carlson has been allowed to visit him in Switzerland for a total of five hours. Cedric Carlson celebrated his fifth birthday on July 3rd.

In the case of Anthony Calzada, U.S. and Bolivian authorities have confirmed Calzada and his son's entry into Bolivia, but their location is unknown. Anthony Calzada has not seen his mother since November 2008. He will be 5 years old in September.


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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, July 13, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 136


Casa Alfi Hotel

Converted train line wins
fans in New York City

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

An old railroad line in New York City is back in use. It doesn't deliver livestock anymore, it delivers pleasure to thousands of people every day and stimulates economic development in a few New York neighborhoods. An elevated railroad line has been turned into an "elevated park" right in the middle of New York City.

It's called the Highline. It's a newly renovated and elevated promenade that was once a railway line for delivering cattle and other foodstock. In 1980, the train made its last delivery, bringing frozen turkeys to lower Manhattan. In a densely populated city, the Highline now provides open space for relaxation as it winds through neighborhoods once noted for slaughterhouses.

This once drab neighborhood is being changed, seemingly overnight, thanks to the Highline.

It's an oasis in a sea of concrete. The walkway includes more than 100 species of plants inspired by the wild landscape left after the trains stopped running. New construction is everywhere. Apartments, office towers, restaurants and even a museum have sprouted alongside the promendade. Those who live closest to it are proud, but at the same time wary.

"There's real pressure being put on working class people around here to still get a place," said a visitor. "So, you know, the Highline both honors the past and the industrial grittiness but it adds to the gentrification. It is a little tricky, but we are glad to have it."

The first section of the Highline was inaugurated in May, after 15 years of planning and political battles. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, along with benefactors like clothing designer Diane von Furstenberg and her husband, media mogul Barry Diller, cut the ribbon.

"I'm so proud to be a part of this neighborhood, this city and this country," said Ms. von Furstenberg. "And things can happen and dreams can happen and we should all take that away today."

The first two sections of the Highline cost $152 million. Of that, $44 million was raised by the public. For those who visit, it seems it was well worth the wait and the money.

Stressed Lithuania gets
first woman president

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Recession-hit Lithuania has inaugurated its first woman president. The new president, Dalia Grybauskaite, took her oath of office in a low-key ceremony Sunday in the capital, Vilnius

In a speech to parliament after being sworn in, the former European Union budget commissioner pledged to tackle Lithuania's deepening economic troubles and strike a balanced foreign policy.

Ms. Grybauskaite replaces Valdas Adamkus, who is retiring after two five-year terms.

After her election, Ms. Grybauskaite said she would consider replacing the ministers of finance, the economy, social welfare, health and energy when she took office.

Ms. Grybauskaite, who ran as an independent, won about 69 percent of the vote.

The Baltic country's once thriving economy has been badly hurt by the global financial crisis. EU data shows the Lithuanian economy shrank nearly 10 percent in the first three months of this year. Unemployment was more than 15 percent earlier this year.
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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, July 13, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 136


Latin American news digest
Mexican forces fend off
attacks by drug gangs


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Mexican federal authorities say they killed one gunman Sunday as they continued to fight off a series of attacks on federal forces in western Michoacan state.

Police say the attacks on their forces began Saturday, when gunmen killed three federal agents and two soldiers, and wounded 18 others. Police said the attacks were retribution for the arrest of drug cartel leader Arnoldo Rueda.

Rueda, an alleged key member of the La Familia Michoacan drug cartel, was captured Saturday morning in Morelia.  Shortly after his arrest, some two dozen armed men threw grenades into the federal offices where Rueda was being held and opened fire.

The attackers failed to secure Rueda's release, and the violence then spread across the Pacific coast state.

President Felipe Calderon's home state of Michoacan has been at the center of his drug war.  He has deployed 36,000 troops to fight drug gangs that are engaged in a bloody war over control of the lucrative trafficking routes into the United States. 

More than 7,000 people have been killed since the beginning of last year.  

Officials in Mexico also say a shootout between suspected rival drug gangs in Michoacan has left at least two people dead. They said the 30-minute early morning firefight tore through the state capital Morelia Friday until police intervened.

One gunman who tried to escape capture is reported to have been killed by police, while another man was found dead on the scene.

In the same state, in the city of Uruapan, the bodies of three men, who had been tortured, blindfolded and shot in the head, were found in plastic bags Friday. 




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