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These stories were published Wednesday, July 16, 2003, in Vol. 3, No. 139
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A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas
Hamilton Molina López, 23, a Fuerza Pública officer shows the damage he suffered from squatters.

Top officials seek 
to justify use of force

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The government, seemingly embarrassed by the force it had to use to evict squatters, spent a lot of time Tuesday justifying the action.

Injured Fuerza Pública officers showed up at Casa Presidencial to display their wounds. Walter Navarro, director of the Fuerza Publica, and Rogelio Ramos, the minister of Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública, stressed that their intervention was ordered by a judge.

One man died in the confrontation with police when officers clashed with squatters at Finca Bambuzal in Río Frio de Sarapiquí. Officials quickly pointed out that the man has a police record.

The Instituto de Desarrollo Agrario issued a release noting that it had delivered land elsewhere to some of the families that had invaded the finca, the property of the Standard Fruit Co. of Costa Rica.

Ramos and Navarro said that in three strategic locations in the finca explosives had been rigged to injure or kill officers. An AK-47 rifle in bad condition also was found. In addition, homemade firebombs, knives and machetes were found.

The two police officers who showed off their wounds Tuesday had been hit by planks that had nails protruding.

Casa Presidencial said that of the 185 families identified as being on the finca, some 64 qualified for aid from the Instituto Agrario. But 35 families did not accept aid. Those who accepted aid were relocated Oct. 28, Casa Presidencial said.

The families invaded the land in some cases two years ago because Costa Rican law provides that in certain cases squatters can eventually gain ownership of the land. Standard Fruit and the United Fruit Co. are not held in high regard by some Costa Ricans because of their development and labor practices in past years.

The government effort Tuesday to explain its actions in such detail was seen as a way to avoid criticism for the use of force from other political parties.

Free trade treaty
scares Costa Ricans
with certain change

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica and its Central American partners are meeting this week to continue to discuss strategy for the resumption of negotiations with the United States July 28 for a proposed free trade treaty.

But throughout the country virtually every special interest group is petrified at the prospect of change that a free trade treaty will bring.

If there is any one generalization that can be made about Costa Ricans, it is that they are not fond of change.


An analysis


Over and over, the concern that is expressed is how will the country be able to compete in the world market. Just what is it that Costa Ricans do or make that will allow them to dominate a tiny sector of the world economy?

That’s supposed to be the goal of free trade. Every country is able to market what it does well and purchase without tariffs the premium products of other nations.

The Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad (ICE) is perhaps the most visible force concerned about the free trade treaty. The strike by ICE workers last month was not really about international bond issues and high finance. The strike was a show of power so that officials do not dare cave in to international demands for access to the country’s telecommunications market. ICE unions won a voice in treaty negotiations.

Costa Ricans seem to be fully prepared to continue to live with third-rate telephone, cellular, Internet and communications services rather than submit to the wrenching changes real competition would bring. Slogans painted on walls throughout the metropolitan area equate ICE with the people, and hardly anyone argues with that equation.

But there are other pockets of deep concern. Farmers of all crops are leery of the giant in the north and its subsidized agricultural machine. Even the palm oil producers want a government corporation formed to look after their interests.

Professionals worry that the treaty will allow highly trained North Americans easy access to medical, dental, engineering, accounting and legal positions here at the expense of those locally trained. 

Financial service workers, particularly those at the national banks distinguished by their long waits and unhelpful employees, figure they will be blown out of the water by the likes of Citibank and other international giants if banking laws are loosened.

Even government workers in charge of the national budget and the customs service wonder what will happen if a trade treaty reduces or eliminates tariffs. Costa Rica uses import duties as a consistent and important revenue generator. Duties on automobiles can be as much as 80 percent, and that is not to protect the non-existent Costa Rican automobile manufacturers.

To most economic sectors of the country, the proposed free trade treaty looks a lot like a sellout to the United States, and there has been no effort by the government and supporters to explain any benefits, if any, from the pact.

For that reason, Costa Rica may be a country in Central America that does not go along with the flow and remain outside of a proposed Central American and a later America-wide pact.

Negotiations resume in a week in New Orleans.

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Workers get leave
to attend march

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Don’t plan on doing a lot of business Friday morning. The government has given public employees four hours off to participate in a march to support its proposed legislation to protect children.

A number of private companies will be under pressure to do the same thing. Plus all citizens are invited.

The march starts at 8 a.m. at Parque Central on Avenida 2 and will make its way to the Children’s Museum on the north side of town.

The march was triggered by the murder of Katia Vanessa González Juárez, who was found buried under a neighbor’s floor July 10.

The government has promised to propose changes in the laws that would increase the penalty for child stealing, murder of a child and abandonment. The exact changes and details still have not been made public, although the current penalty of up to two years imprisonment for child kidnapping is universally regarded as too little.
 

Pimping arrest made
near Puriscal

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Police and investigators raided a house near Puriscal Monday night and took into custody a man who faces a charge of pimping.

A Fuerza Pública spokesman said the raid took place in Tulin de San Antonio de Puriscal and that the man detained was identified by the last names of Calderón Jiménez. Confiscated was a video in which a 15-year-old appeared, said police.
 

Seven swimmers saved 
at Manuel Antonio

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Strong ocean currents created a dangerous condition in the beaches of Manuel Antonio Sunday, and Costa Rican coastguardsmen rescued six women and a man by means of a boat.

Those rescued included a Costa Rican, a man and woman from the United States, two Germans, an Austrian and a Spaniard.
 

Chang gets stamp
along with his bug

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Franklin Chang Diaz, the Costa Rican born U.S. astronaut, is now on a stamp issued by Correo de Costa Rica. The stamp was also sponsored by Earth University where Chang has collaborated on a book showing earth from space.

The two-part stamp featured Chang on one side and a beetle named after him last year on the other. The earth as pictured from space is in the center. Each part is valued at 115 colons, some 29 U.S. cents.
 

Men fight machete duel
that costs one an arm

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two Nicaraguan men fought what amounted to a duel early Monday morning in Limón. One 27-year-old man, identified by the last names of Condela González, lost part of an arm in the encounter. The weapons were machetes.

The second man, still unidentified, suffered lesser wounds.

Marijuana plants taken

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Police confiscated some 700 marijuana plants about 50 to 80 cms. in height (20 to 32 inches) after a raid near Palmar Sur Monday afternoon.

Motorist dies in crash

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A 61-year-old man, Gabriel Thomas Odor, died about 9 p.m. Monday when the car he was driving ran into a dividing wall and then smashed into a parked truck on the General Cañas Autopista in Alajuela, said the Judicial Investigating Organization.
 
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A.M. Costa Rica's professional directory is where business people who wish to reach the English-speaking community may invite responses. If you are interested in being represented here, please contact the editor.


Lawyers


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Some tips to avoid becoming an Internet victim
EDITOR’S NOTE: Hunter Schultz who spends time in Ojochal has compiled a litle fact sheet on Internet fraud that we think would be useful to some readers.

I received another e-mail that sparked a few thoughts on how to help  prevent being the victim of Internet fraud. The link within the e-mail  has been included at the end of this note. They may be legitimate.  However, for educational purposes, this is a great example of what I  will relate below.

Here are a few more tips:

View any e-mail as suspicious. Verify, then trust. I received an e-mail  from what appears to be a reseller of a mortgage refinancing broker. It  was spam so red flag No. 1. Just for fun, I did a little research on the domain name and found the server and the domain name registrant based in mainland China. Red flag No. 2. The website address has no street address of any type. Red flag No. 3. No phone number to call or reply e-mail address either. Red flag No. 4. Their company name is nowhere to be seen: Red flag No. 5. They wanted a lot of information  except my social security number. So they would have had my address, phone, mortgage amount, credit rating that I think I have, and my  current salary. Okay, call the red fire trucks.

This looks very bad to me. They have a lot of info about me, but I have none about them. They would also know who the best potential victims are based on my answers and the answers of others. Anyone with a great credit rating, high salary and a low mortgage amount, is someone I would want to know more about.

I can just imagine the phone call that comes later.  "We need your social  security number to check your credit rating." "Yeah, right. Here it is." (See what I mean? These guys are clever at what they do.)

Even innocent looking e-mails asking for any information at all are suspect. Here are a few questions to ask:

1.) Who are these people asking for this information? 

2.) Is there a phone number to call? 

3.) Is there a street address? 

4.) Go to the following website and enter in the domain name:

http://registrar.verisign-grs.com/whois/

Enter the information for the domain in question: i.e. xyz.com. Do not  enter anything after the .com or .net, etc. This will give a clue as to where the domain is located. You may have to go to another  "whois" page to get all the information. It will usually be listed as part of the results you receive.

5.) Is there an e-mail reply address with the domain name as part of the e-mail. Be suspicious of a company not having their own e-mail account  with their domain name. SPAM is no excuse for a Yahoo or Hotmail address. It is the price for doing business.

6) Try Googling or hotbot-ing their domain name. See what comes up.

Okay, that should be sufficient for now.

Here's the website address that I mentioned above:

http://www.greatssn3.com

Have a look, and you'll see what I mean. Just don't fall for the pretty  graphics and style of the site.

If they are legit, they have learned a valuable lesson.

We also would add that you should double check e-mails and Web pages that seem to come from legitimate, recognized merchants, particularly when they ask for financial or personal information. It is not hard to duplicate a Web page or an e-mail that appears to come from a bank or merchant of high repute.


 
 
Hotel guest goes through window and falls to death
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A 29-year-old downtown hotel guest plunged to his death early Tuesday, and police are investigating to try to find out why.

The death took place about 2 a.m. at the Hotel del Rey, a 24-hour hotel, bar and casino at Avenida 1 and Calle 9 in San José.

Investigators identified the dead man as a U.S. citizen and said his name was Rover Constance Valdis of Texas. However, Gregory M. Ruzicka, one of the principals of the hotel, said that he heard the man was from Colorado.

The man checked into a hotel rented to another patron and was spending his second night there, said Ruzicka. About 1 a.m. he was seen walking on the ground floor of the establishment without any obvious problems.

But according to investigators, the man returned to his second-floor room and then inexplicably ascended to the fourth floor where he broke into another hotel room and began throwing around the personal belongings he found there.

Ruzicka said that two managers arrived and thought they had been able to calm down the man 

who sat down and appeared to have expended his emotions. The two managers began to examine the damaged door to see if it could be repaired, when the guest jump up and ran through the french windows on the Calle 9 side of the room, said Ruzicka.

The windows are directly above the entrance to the hotel, and Ruzicka said that some employees were very upset by the event.

The man had spent some months working in beach communities and was not a new arrival from the United States, said the hotel operator. 

Because of its 24-hour operation, there were people in the casino and in the coffee shop adjacent to the sidewalk where the man hit after falling about 40 feet.

Ruzicka said the death was only the fourth in the 10 years that he has been involved with the hotel and the only one so public. Other deaths were either suicides or natural causes.

A spokesman for the Judicial Investigating Organization said the death was a suicide, but employees at the hotel said they doubted that the man could make such a decision. They attributed his actions to either intoxication or confusion.

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