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(506) 223-1327              Published Friday, July 20, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 143           E-mail us   
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Incidents of reported crimes in first six months of year

January
February
March
April
May
June
Total
Monthly
average

Provincia de San José
Robberies
against persons
262
251
304
274
297
219
1,697
283
Central canton of San José
Robberies
against persons
149
151
187
137
173
115
912
152
Thefts
and similar

259
227
245
233
278
226
1,468
246
Source: Unidad de Análisis of OIJ

June statistics show a decrease in San José robberies
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Although a clear trend may not be evident, crime statistics show a reduction in June over other months of 2007. That included both robberies of individuals and burglaries and thefts.

Law enforcement officials have been conducting sweeps in San José and adjacent areas to pick up known criminals. They also have been targeting the international shipment of drugs from Colombia which results in an influx of cocaine to Costa Rice.

The drug effort has been so successful that officials claim that hitmen had been sent to Costa Rica to kill to government officials.

As the cocaine passes through Costa Rica, either on the water or overland, locals who help usually are paid off in cocaine that then enters the local market.

Statistics from the Judicial Investigation Organization show a decrease of 78 robberies of persons in the Provincia de San José from May to June. In May 297 robberies were reported. In June there were 219 cases.

In just the central canton of San José itself during the same period, there was a reduction of 58 reports: from 173 in May to 115 in June.

Thefts from persons and home burglaries also were the lowest in June of all the months of 2007.

Thefts include those done by stealth, such as pickpocketing, those committed because the victim was inattentive to his or her property and also thefts committed with trickery.

Many victims in Costa Rica do not report crimes to the police, in part because they do not expect any action. So the statistics are suspect when trying to measure the amount of criminal acts. But crime reports at least show general trends.

During the first six months of the year, there were 2,382 reports of what investigators call asaltos in the Provincia de San José and 1,291 in the central canton, which can be considered the city of San José. There also were 1,468 reports of thefts, burglaries and con games during the same period.

The statistics come from the Unidad de Análisis of the Oficina de Planes y Operaciones of the Judicial Investigating Organization.

Fernando Berrocal, minister of Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública, has embarked on a two-pronged program against street crime. One effort is to cut into the drug trade. The second is to pick up criminals with pending warrants and a history of street crimes. The program has been adopted by other law enforcement agencies which now work together.

The signs of this are an increase in drug arrests and law enforcement sweeps at odd hours in areas where they are likely to encounter criminals.

Robbery or asalto here is defined as use of force or threat, and street robberies frequently lead to  injuries or death when the victim fights back.
drug boat
Guillermo Solano/Ministerio de
Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública
Officers tie up at a Flamingo dock the suspected drug boat found hidden near Zapotal.

People have died on Avenida 2 in early evening because they would not surrender their cell telephone to a drug addict.

Just Thursday the Fuerza Pública and the Judicial Investigating Organization detained four men suspected of distributing drugs in Aurora, Heredia. The Fuerza Pública detained three men in Alajuela with crack and marijuana. And in the Alajuela district of Pital, officers announced that they had detained a man wanted for investigation of robbery. He had marijuana, cocaine and crack in his pockets, police said. This is a typical score for a weekday in recent months.

The biggest anti-drug bust of the week was at Playa Zapotal en Carrillo, Guanacaste. Wednesday three men beached what appears to be a drug boat and fled. The presumed crew, three Colombians, were caught a few miles away after one stole a bike from a 14 year old, said Berrocal's ministry.

The U.S. Coast Guard intercepted the boat at sea and drove it to shore, eventually into the hands of the Fuerza Pública, the Servicio Nacional de Guardacostas, the Vigilancia Aérea, the Policía de Control de Drogas and the Unidad Canina (K-9). When found, the boat was empty, but officials are conducting extensive searches to see if drugs have been hidden nearby. The boat could carry up to two tons of cocaine as well as two more tons of fuel.

The boat, typical of its type, had four 200-horsepower outboard motors.  It carried 1,175 liters (about 310 gallons) of fuel. Some Costa Rican fishermen have a steady business of supplying fuel to these drug boats, and the crew of this craft might have made a mid-ocean pit stop before being detected. Fishermen usually get cocaine as payment, and then sell the drugs in the internal Costa Rican market.

Berrocal was at an unusual closed meeting with the Comisión de Narcotráfico of the Asamblea Legislativa for two hours Thursday in which he discussed the recent arrest of Colombian men who were accused of being hired gunmen sent to Costa Rica. They were ordered by Colombian drug lords to kill Berrocal and Rodrigo Arias, minister of the Presidencia and the brother to the president, in revenge for their efforts to block drug shipments, officials said at the time.

When the men were sent back to Colombia as illegal aliens, officials there set them free.


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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, July 20, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 143

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Honeymoon couple robbed
by bandits at Quepos hotel


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two hotel guests on their honeymoon in Quepos became victims of robbers in their own room Tuesday.

The Fuerza Pública and the Judicial Investigating Organization said that the pair were in their room when two armed men broke in and beat up the man.

The victims were identified as husband and wife Chris Brundritt and Katherine Brideh, said police, adding that they were U.S. citizens.

It was Tuesday about 11 p.m. in Villa 9 of the Hotel Pájaro Azul when the intruders entered and began to beat up the man in the face and head, said police.

They took $400. jewelry, a cell phone and credit cards before fleeing, said police. Officers confirmed that the pair were on their honeymoon.

Tamarindo will seek out
mosquito breeding places


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Tamarindo will hold a community cleanup Tuesday to try to rid the area of the breeding places of mosquitoes that carry dengue.

The cleanup is being organized by the Asociacion pro Mejoras de Playa Tamarindo, although they are urging all residents to join in.

Dengue has reached epidemic proportions in Costa Rica this year with more than 8,000 cases now reported from the Pacific and Caribbean coasts.

Health officials in Limón on the Caribbean coast are going so far as to conduct house-to-house searches, looking inside each living unit to make sure that there are no standing puddles of water. They also are spraying, but health officials say that the insecticide is only 50 percent effective against adult mosquitoes and overuse can cause problems with humans.

Tamarindo on the northwest Pacific coast will attack the Aedes aegypti mosquito at the spots where it breeds: old pots, tires and other trash that holds water. A release by the association said it also was directing its plea to those in charge of construction sites where a lot of trash may be found.

Crooks use air tragedy
to steal data on computers


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A heartless Internet thief has linked a message about the TAM air tragedy in Brazil with a Web page that will send a damaging program into the computer of a visitor, an Internet company said.

The possible attack was reported by Websense, Inc., a company that makes software filters and security programs for the Web.

The company said that a message in Spanish is going around the Internet suggesting that the recipient might have a relationship with one or more of the persons killed in the air crash in Sao Paulo this week. It gives information to contact a program of help for victims' families and includes a Web link.

Those who click on the Web link can invite a harmful trojan program into their computer, said the company. The trojan program can steal personal information like passwords.

The e-mail origin of the message appears to be Korea, but company officials said they think that the Web server there was compromised and that the real thieves are in Brazil.

Curent information about the air crash is HERE.

Flamenco night will benefit
animal protection association


Special to A.M. Costa Rica

A Flamenco show Aug. 2 will benefit the Asociación Nacional Protectora de Animales.

The 8 p.m. show will be by dancers from the Compañia de Flamenco Paulina Peralta. All funds raised from this event will help the association with its various projects: spay/neuter campaigns, education, and rescuing mishandled animals, said a release.

The event is at Bar Cavale which is sponsoring the event along with the company that sells the kitchen product Cloro Los Conejos.

Each ticket costs 2,000 colons and includes the performance as well as an entry to a raffle where prizes will be awarded.

Tickets are available at the association main offices in San José south of the Judicial Investigating Oreganization building (255-2722) and at Bar Cavale.

Bar Cavale’s address is from la Rotonda de las Garantias Sociales en Zapote, 200 meters east.

More information can be obtained by contacting Tatiana Peralta at Winners Circle Media at 301-1261 or by e-mail at Tatiana@WinnersCircleMedia.com.

Casas tried to dispel myths
over financing campaigns

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The nation's second vice president was in the legislature Thursday in an effort to dispel what he said were myths about election financing.

He is Kevin Casas and he was before the Comisión de Reformas Electorales y Partidos Políticos. Casas did an academic thesis on election financing. The commission is considering changes to the election code.

He said one myth was the supposed gigantic increase in spending in modern elections. He said he compared expenses in the 1978 and 1998 national elections. He said that in constant dollars political parties spent $20 million in the 1978 election and just $16 million in 1998. In per capita terms that is $25 per voter in 1978 and $8 per voter in 1998, he said.

Casas also said another myth was the election subsidy to political parties. In 1953 there was a subsidy of $23 for each voter but only $5.60 per voter in 2002, he said.

Casas said that one current problem was the absence of state financial support for candidates for local offices, like mayor.

Cartago band playing in David

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Banda Nacional de Cartago is in David, Panamá, and plans a concert for 7 o'clock tonight in the recently inaugurated Plaza Cervantes. Saturday the band will play a concert in the community of Bugaba.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, July 20, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 143


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Ties that bind
need replacing


Not often in the railroad business can you risk being hit by an automobile. These workers are replacing wood ties in the line near Plaza Víquez in San José. The passenger train has been a success carrying customers the length of the Metropolitan area. But some of the infrastructure is old.


railroad workers
A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas


TEC's rector rejects leave and will continue anti-treaty fight
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The rector of the technology institute not only will not take a leave of absence to fight against the free trade treaty, he said he sees his efforts as being consistent with the mission of the university.

He is Eugenio Trejos, who issued a release through the press office of the Instituto Tecnológico de Costa Rica saying that he was reaffirming the autonomy of the university. The press office, part of the university, has been active for months in promoting opposition to the trade treaty with the United States.

A group that favors the trade treaty said Wednesday that Trejos should not spend public money or take a public salary while he fights against the trade treaty. The Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones has said that public funds and public work time should not be used by either side in the
 campaign leading up to the Oct. 7 referendum.

Trejos, however, said the autonomy of his university, one of four such public schools in the country, was protected by the Costa Rican Constitution.

He said that one of the goals of the university is to contribute to the improvement of the quality of life of the Costa Rican people and solve the major problems of the country in search of a more just society. He said his opposition to the free trade treaty was consistent with these ends.

Trejos holds his job because he was elected by the university community. He just won re-election so he has at least four years to serve.

There is no indication what other university resources are being used to oppose the free trade treaty.


And then there are the positive points of assisted living
There are some aspects of assisted living that are very seductive. Like being able to hand a basket of dirty laundry to the maid who comes in to clean in the morning and have it returned, all pressed, including the sheets, in the afternoon.  Or having the driver ready to take you when you need to keep an appointment with the doctor or a clinic.  Or sometimes just if you have to go into town.

It is quite nice to have my meals prepared and served by someone else.  Although I am still complaining about the food, finally I am being served a breakfast to my liking — crisp toast of pan integral, a nicely fried egg or cereal, fresh orange juice and a bowl of mangos or other fruit.  All it took was a bit of patience and politeness on both sides.

I realize that all of this is available were I to live in an apartment, but here I do not have to keep opening my purse to pay for these “assists”.  Nor do I have to remember to pay for my electricity, phone, TV and Internet each month.  These, too, can be paid automatically by my bank, but even then I have to remember to keep enough money in my account!

I thought about all of this when, for the first time I went walking around downtown San Antonio de Belén.  Tom, a new acquaintance, who lives in Belén, had told me about the various good restaurants in town, and generally extolled the charms of the area.  He was so impressed by the residence during the tour I took him on, that I began to see the place through different eyes, and although it amused me that he called our apartments “villas,” I like the idea.  

Some beautiful kitchen items and furniture were on display in the windows of Shafer’s, the department store on the corner of the main street. There was the white mixing bowl I have been looking for for years.  Sadly, I accepted the fact that I have no use for it now.

 I have never been addicted to shopping, but if there is such a thing as a window shopping addiction, I have a problem. 

My constant phrase is “Solo estoy mirando.”
(I am only looking.) And believe me, sales clerks dread me far more than they do shopping addicts.  So, although I mourn my lost kitchen and all of its gadgets, I have the exercise room with its implements that are doing me more good than a kitchen. And, of course, at this particular place, there is the Spanish Country Club, where I can
Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart
jostuart@amcostarica.com

play pool or miniature golf for a small fee or swim or even take dancing lessons for free.  

I hate to think I am losing my love for and loyalty to San José.  After all, I wrote a whole book dedicated to it!  But Belén does have its charms, not the least of which is the climate.  Being about 700 feet lower than San José it is just that much warmer, which means I don’t have to change clothes when I go for a walk.  Exercise walking is easy, too, even in the rain, since all of the walkways in the residence and at the club are covered, and the wind is not nearly as strong here.  I noticed that walking in downtown San Antonio was not as easy as in San José.  I am not familiar with the sidewalks (and one must always watch out for irregularities in the sidewalk, not to mention potholes.)  Being just that much warmer here is not an asset when the sun is out and you are walking in the town.
 
However, being smaller, there is less traffic, and less traffic fumes in town, even though smack in the middle of town is the main bus terminal. 

There is also a stop just a block away from the residence where a bus leaves every hour for the city, taking one all the way to downtown San José to the La Merced church.

I have said more than once that I like extremes.  Perhaps because they are compatible with the paradoxes of life.  But I moved from a three-bedroom apartment to one that would fit into my former living room.  As a result, I have learned that I can be very happy in a much smaller space.  I felt guilty about taking up so much room for one person, anyway.  I will always need light, though, and I have enough to keep me happy in my present “villita”


Jo’s book, “Butterfly in the City: A Good Life in Costa Rica,” is available at the 7th Street Book Store, Lehmann’s and Liberia Internacional.  Or contact Jostuart@amcostarica.com



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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, July 20, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 143


Aviation officials in Brazil reject closing busiest airport
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Brazilian prosecutors are seeking to suspend flights at the country's busiest airport while investigators study a plane crash that killed at least 189 people.  Aviation officials have pledged to address safety concerns, without halting service at the key airport.

Federal prosecutors filed a motion to halt operations at Congonhas airport one day after the TAM Airlines jet flew off a runway and burst into flames. Prosecutors asked a judge to suspend flights until aviation officials can ensure that it is safe to continue operations at the airport, in the heart of Brazil's largest city, Sao Paulo.

Jose Carlos Pereira, the president of Brazil's aviation authority, Infraero, said halting flights at the nation's busiest airport would be an excessive and radical measure.

He said any suspension would affect the 20 million passengers who use that airport, and said it could trigger chaos in the airline industry.

Flights resumed at Congonhas airport early Wednesday, but aviation officials say the runway involved in the crash will remain closed until an investigation is complete.

TAM airline executives said the Airbus 320 aircraft was in perfect condition and the pilots were experienced.

Recovery efforts were continuing at the site where the plane left the runway, crossed a busy city street and crashed into a cargo terminal and gas station. Officials say the bodies of most of the victims have been recovered, but 
work is slow because of fears that the heavily damaged buildings may collapse.

Brazilian investigators are working with experts from the plane's maker, Airbus, as well as officials from the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board.

Jim Hall, a former chairman of the U.S. agency, said the probe into the crash will consider numerous factors, including rainy conditions at the time of the accident.

"They will be looking at the runway, the runway surface," said Hall. "They will be looking at weather information that was available, weather radar . . .  the transmissions between the tower and the aircraft."

Earlier this year, airport officials resurfaced the runway used by the TAM flight, but they said workers had not yet cut grooves into the pavement to help channel rain water.

Hall said he has flown into Congonhas airport, and said he recalls that it has a very short runway and is located in a dense urban area. He said Brazilian officials have been aware of safety concerns for some time.

"The main concern is the length of that runway and a lack obviously of any type of adequate safety area at the end of the runway," he added.

Hall says one possible safety measure is placing a surface called "crushable concrete" at the end of the tarmac to help stop runaway airplanes. He said several U.S. airports use the material that allows a plane's wheels to sink in, and slow the aircraft down.


Popular ex-dictator Manuel Noriega wanted by home country of Panamá, too
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Panamá says it still wants former dictator Manuel Noriega sent back to his native country after he is released from a U.S. prison in September.

U.S. prosecutors filed a request Tuesday to have Noriega extradited to France on behalf of the French government.  Noriega was convicted in France in absentia in 1999 on drug trafficking and money laundering charges.  He faces a 10-year prison sentence and a multi-million dollar fine.

The former dictator has also been convicted in absentia in Panamá for the 1985 murder of dissident leader Hugo Spadafora. Panamanian Foreign Minister Samuel Lewis
says his government expects its extradition request to be honored.

Noriega's attorney Frank Rubino says his client is protected under the Geneva Convention because a judge has declared him a prisoner of war. 

Under the convention, a prisoner of war who has served his sentence must be sent back to his native country.

U.S. forces captured Noriega after invading Panama in 1989.  He was convicted in 1992 on drug trafficking, racketeering and conspiracy charges. His scheduled release follows the conclusion of most of his 30-year prison sentence.  


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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, July 20, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 143



Five new sports greats inducted into national hall of fame
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Five Costa Rican sports greats were inducted Thursday night into the Galería del Deporte, the national hall of fame. One of them is Erick Zumbado, who won his medals in the Special Olympics.

Zumbado is the first athlete with disabilities to be inducted. He participated in Special Olympics in Connecticut in 1995, in North Carolina in 1999 and in Dublin, Ireland, in 2003 and won medals. The ceremony was in the Hotel Marriott and President Óscar Arias Sánchez participated.
Also inducted were Olman Alfaro, who is a well-known referee of international table tennis matches; Jorge Luis Rojas, who was coach of the national team in 1943 and was a member of earlier national teams; Hugo Chamberlain, who holds 72 national championships in marksmanship and participated in the Olympics for Costa Rica three times; and Carlos Enrique Fonseca, who won six automobile racing titles and was named racing man of the century by the Federación Costarricense de los Motores.

The new members of the gallery were selected by peers.


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