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(506) 223-1327                   Published Tuesday, Aug. 7, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 155            E-mail us   
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Proposal would refurbish biodiverse park at Limón
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The government will work with the private Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad to refurbish the Parque Cariari not far from Limón Centro. The work will be supported by $3.5 million from the World Bank.

The location on a small peninsula contains a rainforest and has reefs nearby, a requirement for diversity, said Rodrigo Gámez, president of the private research and biodiversity management center based in Santo Domingo de Heredia.

The project has been pushed by Marco Vargas Díaz, minister of Coordinación Interinstitucional y de Producción. He has as one of his projects the Limón Ciudad Puerto, which is supposed to improve the economic conditions in the province on the Caribbean.

The park, which carries the Indian name for the Limón area, may be the site or is at least near the site where Christopher Columbus set foot in Costa Rica during his last voyage to the New World. The park property is 14 hectares, about 35 aces. It is 5 kms. (about 3 miles) north of Limón Centro on the main highway to Moín.

The property contains an aging amphitheater.

The park also contains a playground. Proposed is a second amphitheater, picnic areas, classrooms and trails.

Officials hope to construct a small dock at the site to provide access to the sea and boat trips around 
air view of park
Airview of park and its neighborhood

Bahía de Portete to the north. To the south is Playa Bonita.

With the involvement of the Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad, officials hope that the area is more than just a recreational park. They are hoping for an emphasis on science and education. The slogan is  Un nuevo Parque Cariari para Limón.

The area is home to sloths and a multitude of bird species, said officials.

The Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad has worked in the design of the park and in the conceptualization of what the park might become.

Seaside amphitheater could be a location for plays and concerts, officials said. They have proposed to build an additional one on the opposite side of the park.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Aug. 7, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 155

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Arias scheduled to sign
trade treaty with Panamá

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President Óscar Arias Sánchez is scheduled to sign a free trade treaty with Panamá at 5 p.m. today in a ceremony in the Hotel Real Intercontinental in Escazú.

The treaty was reached by negotiators of both countries during the last week in June. The signing ceremony is a preliminary to ratification in the Asamblea Legislativa.

The treaty is expected to be less controversial than the agreement with the United States that has divided the nation for three years. The battle against that treaty is fueled by anti-American sentiment.

However, the Panamá treaty also provides for an opening of the telecommunications monopoly here. Firms from Panamá will be able to offer telecommunication services, and the Instituto Costarricence de Electricidad will be able to offer services in Panamá.

The institute's unions are very sensitive to competition.

Under the agreement some 93 percent of industrial and agroindustrial products will have free access. Other industrial products will have a period of from five to 11 years as the customs duties gradually diminish. Some agricultural products will have schedules for reduction of duties as long as 16 years.

Arias probably hopes that the treaty is not as controversial as the one with the United States. The president went to sleep Monday night with the sounds of protesters in his ears. Anti-trade treaty demonstrators said they came to his Rohrmoser home to serenade him Monday night.

Esquipulas 20th anniversary
will be marked Wednesday

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Four other Central American presidents will visit the country Wednesday and meet to mark the 20th anniversary of the Esquipulas peace accords that began to end hostilities in Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala.

The meeting will be in the Auditorio Nacional of the Museo de los Niños, and the chief executives are expected to reflect on the development of the area since then.

President Óscar Arias Sánchez was awarded the Nobel peace Prize for his role in forging a peace plan. Daniel Ortega, the president of Nicaragua then and the current president now will not attend.

But coming are Elías Antonio Saca of El Salvador, Oscar Berger of Guatemala, Manuel Zelaya of Honduras and  Martín Torrijos of Panamá.

The session will have local coverage by television stations.

New passport system here
wins praise from officials

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Officials are calling the new system of providing passports a success after a month of operation with Banco de Costa Rica.

The Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería said Monday that passport applications have increased from 400 a day to 900 a day.

Alejandro Acón, the operations manager of the bank, said that the number of windows for passports would be increased by four in the metropolitan area and that the number of bank branches authorized for passport applications all over the country will increase by 50 percent.

More than half the passports that have been issued under this system have been delivered by Correos de Costa Rica, the national mail service, using certified delivery, said the immigration department.

Costa Ricans who need passports can call  800-227-2482 to get an appointment at one of the 30 bank branches offering the service.

Grocery operator loses
in shootout with bandits

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

When Gerardo Porras opened up his small supermarket in San Miguel de Desamparados about 5:55 a.m. Monday he was confronted by three men, some of them with guns.

The 54-year-old father of four pulled his own gun and engaged the would-be robbers in a close-range firefight. Porras lost. Police said he took two bullets in the head and others in his back and chest.

But Porras may have shot one of the bandits. A man showed up at a local clinic with gunshot wounds and later went to Hospital San Juan de Dios. Investigators were on his trail.

The Supermercado El Amigo has been a frequent target of robbers which was why Porras had a gun, officials said.

Ruling party candidate
appears to win in Mexico

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Preliminary results in Mexico's Baja California state suggest an economist from the country's ruling party has won the governor's race.

With almost 90 percent of the ballot counted, Jose Osuna of the Partido Acción Nacional  had 50 percent.

Tijuana's former mayor and gambling tycoon Jorge Hank Rhon had 43 percent.

Hank Rhon has faced accusations of corruption and ties to drug traffickers, which he denies.

Officials going to Puriscal

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The government is moving to Puriscal Friday.

The consejo de gobierno or president's cabinet meets at 10:15 a.m. in the Iglesia Nueva de Puriscal. Earlier President Óscar Arias Sánchez will place the first stone for the foundation of the Centro de Atención Integral de Salud in San Antonio de Puriscal and he will inaugurate another of the centros comunitario inteligente or Internet access points at the Municipalidad de Puriscal.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Aug. 7, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 155

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Executive Branch seeking harmonious August in Legislature
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The central government is backing off on its push to pass legislation required for the free trade treaty with the United States.

Rodrigo Arias, minister of the Presidencia, said Monday that during August the legislature would consider social and development issues. This had been requested by the Partido Acción Ciudadana, which opposes the treaty.

The legislature or Asamblea Legislativa meets from May 1 to July 31 and from Sept. 1 to Nov. 30, as stipulated in the Costa Rican Constitution.

However, the country's president has the authority to recall the legislature at other times for what are known as extraordinary sessions. During such extraordinary periods, the lawmakers can only act on measures presented by the executive branch.

These days the legislature meets most of the year with the executive branch setting the agenda for the periods not specified in the Constitution.

Lawmakers have before them some 13 proposed laws that are designed to adjust Costa Rican statutes to conform to what is required by the free trade treaty. The measures are highly controversial.

Rather than bulldogging these measures through the legislature during August, the executive branch has chosen to focus on other proposed laws that have more multi-partisan support.

ARTICLE 116. The Legislative Assembly shall meet each year on the first day of May, even if it has not been convoked, and its regular-session term shall last six months, divided into two periods: from the first day of May to the thirty-first day of July and from the first day of September to the thirtieth day of November.
— Costa Rican Constitution

One measure is the Ley de Concesiones that updates the
way the central government can issue concessions. This is important to Costa Rica because the idea of a concession is to attract a foreign company that wants to do and control some project. To do so the company will have to invest substantial funds that are out of the reach of Costa Rica.

Other measures include strengthening the nation's housing programs and providing increased autonomy to the Indian populations.

A big item on the list is the reform of the year-old immigration law. The Catholic Church and other groups are seeking a law considered less draconian. The current law that is not being enforced well would penalize those who house illegal immigrants as well as those who give them jobs. The proposed change would soften the penalties.

Arias was quoted as saying that by backing off the free trade treaty-related measures the Partido Acción Ciudadana will be able to show that it will work in the best interests of the country and cease being obstructionists.

Indicted Internet drug sales firm had 40 employees here
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The firm at the center of the illegal sale of prescription pharmaceuticals did most of its business in the United States, but it maintained its headquarters in San José along with some 40 customer service employees, according to the indictment returned by a federal grand jury in San Diego.

Some U.S. expats were believed to have been employed in the customer service section.

The indictment alleges that the company indiscriminately sold prescription and non-prescription drugs to U.S. citizens and used physicians to rubber stamp the deals.

The indictment, some 313 counts, said that the company took in $126 million in two years. Some 18 persons were named.

The firm, called Affpower, also used a number of Internet affiliates to locate customers.

The indictment names Mark Anthony Heredia as the manager of the firm in San José. Also named as principals were William Polk Harrington and Todd Wurtzel, who used the name Sonny Gallo, said the indictment. These two recruited physicians and pharmacies to participate in the business.

All of the other indicted persons are either physicians in the United States, owners of pharmacies there, operators of
affiliated Web sites or in one case ran a credit card processing operation in Tel Aviv, Israel, where payments for prescriptions were cleared, said the indictment.

The physicians got $3 for each prescription they authorized, and the indictment said that in some cases, 1,000 prescriptions were authorized by a single physician in a single day.

The indictment said that in no case did the physician have contact with the person seeking the drugs and based a decision simply on a questionnaire filed out by the purchaser. Approval rate was 98 percent, the indictment said.

In the two years of operation, the company filled about 1 million orders, the indictment said. The company had its Internet servers in Cyprus and used an accountant there to make payments to physicians, druggists and affiliates, said the government.

If convicted, the government said the defendants face the following maximum prison sentences: 20 years in prison for racketeering and racketeering conspiracy; 20 years for mail and wire fraud; 20 years for conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud; five years for conspiracy to distribute and dispense controlled substances; 20 years for money laundering; five years for conspiracy to violate the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, and three years for violating the act. The defendants also face millions of dollars in fines, said the government.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Aug. 7, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 155

police search near Quepos
Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública/Guillermo Solano
Policemen from the Unidad Especial de Apoyo and a dog search for fleeing drug transporters near Portalón
Police continue the hunt for traffickers who fled makeshift gasoline station
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A number of police units still are in the fields, woods and mangroves south of Quepos seeking at least four persons believed to be drug traffickers and maybe even the drugs.

The search was set off by the discovery of a camp Sunday in which gasoline, outboard oil and provisions were stockpiled, presumably for the benefit of Colombian drug smugglers.

Also captured were two boats.  One was a so-called fastboat with three 100-horsepower outboards of the type used to smuggle cocaine. But there were no packages of drugs.
Involved in the search Monday were the Servicio de Vigilancia Aérea, the Unidad Especial de Apoyo, the Unidad de Intervención Policial, the Servicio Nacional de Guardacostas, the Policía de Control de Drogas, the Fuerza Pública de Puntarenas and Pérez Zeledón, and the Unidad Canina (K-9).

The search was hot, difficult and dangerous work. Police also are continuing the search inland because they believe that the presumed Colombian traffickers had local contacts.
Nothing had been heard about two other boats that fled the location Sunday and were turned over to the U.S. Coast Guard, which is on patrol offshore.

Judge in Trinidad OKs extradition of trio who are suspects in JFK bomb plot
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A judge in Trinidad Monday ordered the extradition of three men wanted in the United States on charges of plotting to blow up fuel pipelines supplying a New York airport. U.S. officials say the three were part of an Islamist extremist cell led by a fourth man who is already in U.S. custody.

The judge in Trinidad rejected a defense motion that sought to challenge the extradition of the men — Trinidad native Kareem Ibrahim, and Abdul Kadir and Abdel Nur, who are from Guyana. The judge said the three will be held in custody in the Caribbean nation until they are turned over to U.S. officials for trial on conspiracy charges.

U.S. prosecutors have accused the three of conspiring to cause death, serious injury and extensive damage at New York's John F. Kennedy airport. Lawyers for the men have 
rejected the allegations, and say their clients are the targets of entrapment.

U.S. officials already have a fourth suspect in custody, Guyana-born Russell Defreitas, who had worked as a cargo handler at the New York airport.

The court decision marks a minor victory for U.S. prosecutors in their efforts to try the three foreign-born suspects.

Larry Birns, director of the Council on Hemispheric Affairs in Washington, says prosecutors will face additional challenges, however, in proving their case in a U.S. courtroom.

Birns says that U.S. officials may have moved too quickly  because there is no evidence that the men had acquired explosives or taken other steps to carry out the attacks.

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