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These stories were published Thursday, Aug.18, 2005, in Vol. 5, No. 163
Jo Stuart
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It's beginning to look like a dry Superbowl
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

If the purpose of United States professional football is to sell beer, Superbowl Sunday will be a big failure here.

Bar and restaurant owners who cater to North American customers are awakening to the fact that Superbowl Sunday, Feb. 5, is also the day of national elections here in Costa Rica.

That means no alcohol sales.

The dry Superbowl will be the painful finale to a series of dry days, depending on geography. Costa Rican law prohibits the sale of alcohol during political rallies.

Some 14 national parties are now inscribed before the Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones, and each will hold public events that will cause the closing of bars and alcohol outlets
nearby. The events will affect San José disproportionately.

So while two professional football teams duke it out in Detroit in Superbowl XL, fans here in public venues will be reduced to cola.

And if the Feb. 5 election does not result in a decisive win for a presidential candidate, the election will be replayed between the two two candidates April 2.

Bar and restaurant owners have complained in the past about the loss in revenue caused by Costa Rican law. Patrons get a taste of the rules every Semana Santa when bars and package outlets have to close.

But Superbowl Sunday is a big deal for North American males and a money-maker for those who cater to them. One bar owner estimated his income loss for that day alone will be $3,000.

Sneaky dial-up worms cost computer users
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Internet users have been surprised by phone bills of as much as 500,000 colons ($1,040) as a result of a computer dial-up scam. 

Since January, the Autoridad Reguladora de los Servicios Publicos has received 48 complaints regarding billings of international calls made without an owner's approval.

The international calls are a result of “dialers,” said a press release.  Dialers are fraudulent programs that install themselves automatically on a user's computer when those users visit some entertainment Web sites on the Internet.  Specific sites to avoid include music and video game downloading sites, music video sites and sites that advertise free international calls, said the authority.  But officials said that the type of Web sites that generate the most of these types of
complaints are those that feature pornography. 

Officials warn that cable users are not immune from the scam.  Users of the Red Digital de Servicios Integrados and the Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line have filed complaints as well.  They are persons who have cable access but still have their computers hooked up to a telephone line.

Dialers work by automatically disconnecting a user from his or her normal server and establishing an international one as the server's primary dial-up number.  This leads to hefty international phone bills every time the user logs on. 

Authority engineers recommend that users install software to block these programs and also call the Insituto Costarricense de Electricidad to restrict international calls.  

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Aug. 18, 2005, Vol. 5, No. 163

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Tourism chamber acts
to bolster visitor security

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Thefts of U.S. passports, which are reported to be from 80 to more than 100 per month, are one of the reasons that the tourism industry is taking steps to bolster security for visitors.

The Camara Nacional de Turismo said Wednesday that it was creating a free telephone line and preparing a video to put tourists who come through Juan Santamaría airport on guard.

The statements about security concerns came at the same time that the industry association inaugurated a booth in the baggage section at the airport where tourists can find maps, guides and other material.

William Rodríguez, president of the chamber, said in a statement that tourists bring in $1.3 billion a year and provide jobs for 600,000 persons.

The new booth also is supported by Alterra Partners, the manager of the airport. Alterra reported that 756,116 passengers arrived at the airport in the first half of the year, a 21.4 percent jump over last year.

To protect these tourists, the chamber said it was setting up an interinstitutional committee, including such entities as the U.S. Embassy, airport security and the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública.  The first project is the video warning against passport thefts. The free phone line will receive information about risks to tourists.

Tico team now tied
for third with Guatemala

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Mexico's national team defeated Costa Rica Wednesday night 2-0 and put the Ticos in a two-way tie for third place in the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football.

The first three finishers win berths at the World Cup in Germany next year. The fourth place finisher has to defeat an Asian team to win the right to go to Germany.

The game was predictable. The Mexican team usually wins at home, Azteca Stadium in Mexico City. In fact, Costa Rica was the last team to beat the Mexicans at home in a World Cup qualifier, and that was June 16,  2001.

Guatemala won its match against Panamá at the Mateo Flores Stadium in Guatemala City. Consequently, Guatemala moved up in the rankings with seven points to tie with Costa Rica.

Undefeated Mexico still is on top with the United States second. Trinidad and Panama are fifth and sixth of the six-team conference.

The next round of games is Sept. 3 when Costa Rica plays Panamá there and the United States team takes on Mexico in Colombus, Ohio. The United States plays Costa Rica in Tibás Oct. 8.

Fuerza Pública officers were deployed Wednesday night for post-game rowdiness, but the loss and a recurring drizzle dampened spirits.

Costa Rica rejects
immigration concerns

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The government of Costa Rica has promised to keep faith with the rights of refugees and has rejected allegations made by a spokesperson for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

The response was in the form of a letter sent by Marco Vinicio Vargas Pereira, acting minister of foreign relations, to James Kovar, chief of the U.N. refugees mission in Costa Rica.

Friday a spokesperson in Geneva, Switzerland, expressed concern about Costa Rica's proposed immigration law and the effect it might have on immigrants and refugees.

Vargas in his note said that Costa Rica recognizes international treaties at the same level as the Constitution and that the proposed immigration law had been reviewed by the Sala IV constitutional court. He added that despite its financial limitations Costa Rica has invested significantly to guarantee the human rights of education and health for all its inhabitants, including migrants.

Figure in Asian collapse
wants to stay in Canada

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A man accused of masterminding a scheme that triggered the Asian economic crisis a decade ago is asking Canada to free him after years of house arrest.

Rakesh Saxena will appear before the British Columbia Court of Appeals Sept. 26 to argue that he should be freed, now that the statute of limitations on his arrest warrant has expired. Saxena was arrested at a Canadian ski resort in 1996 and charged with embezzling millions of dollars from the Bangkok Bank of Commerce. The bank's collapse helped trigger the Asian economic crisis a year later.

The unsuccessful attempt to extradite Saxena to Thailand was one of the longest extradition trials in Canadian history. Saxena says if he is freed he plans to apply for residency in Canada.

Music in Costa Rica
featured on a DVD

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rican composer Luis Castillo has put his work to a DVD entitled “Costa Rica.” 

The DVD which should be released Aug. 25, has 28 videos.  Half of those feature the parks and nature of Costa Rica and the rest are aimed at educating the viewer about national symbols, history and the formation of the republic, said a press release. 

Creators hope the DVD will provide an alternative method to studying music and the history of Costa Rica for the country's students. A book of the same title is being released as well to accompany the movie, the release noted.
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Rental property frauds
Our readers say let scammers spend their money
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Some readers are fighting back against scammers who try to cheat them.

A handful of readers advise leading on the scammers to cause them to lose money.

The responses came from a news story Tuesday that said scammers who used to target vehicle ads are now soliciting those who have real estate to rent. Basically the scammer tries to rent living quarters sight unseen with a supposedly certified check. The check bears a number far in excess of the money needed to complete the transaction, and the scammer wants the difference wired to him.

"Just for fun agree to the sale or rent," said one reader in an e-mail Wednesday.  "Insist the party send you the fake check via Federal Express ONLY. Each time they e-mail you, complain that you really need the money or you will give the apartment etc to some one. I try to get them to spend their money sending the check. Of course I always deny getting the check and try to get them to resend it. I have a small collection."

Another reader reported that he ran an ad for a motorcycle in La Nación and on the newspaper's Web site. "I had received at least 35 responses on it — all
from  England," he added.  "They all said the same thing about having someone in the States send
me a cashier's check and then their shipping company will make arrangements to pick up the bike.  I know it is some sort of a scam.  I was asking $2,500 for
the motorcycle.  I had already received one cashier's check for $6,500."

One reader wanted to know who would accept complaints about such efforts at Internet fraud. One possiblity is the 4-year-old econsumer.gov, a joint effort to gather and share cross-border e-commerce complaints.

According to the coalition, the project has two components: a multilingual public Web site, and a government, password-protected Web site. The public site provides general information about consumer protection in all countries that belong to the International Consumer Protection Enforcement Network, contact information for consumer protection authorities in those countries, and a complaint form.

Using the existing Consumer Sentinel network (a database of consumer complaint data and other investigative information operated by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission), the incoming complaints will be shared through the government Web site with participating consumer protection law enforcers, the commission said.

Give yourself a few minutes
if you dash into forbidden zone

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Tránsito officers seem to like giving out the new forbidden license plate ticket. 

One complaint is that officers have their watch slightly ahead at 7 a.m. and slightly behind at 8:30. Between those hours vehicles with certain final digits on their plate or placa are forbidden to enter the center of the city.

This has caused some drivers to dash into the forbidden zone before 7 a.m. But sometimes they are caught. One driver swore he was ticketed at 7 a.m., although the officer said the time was 7:07.

The ticket is supposed to cost a tucán, a 5,000-colon note so called because of the bird printed on it. Today vehicles with a final license plate digit of 7 or 8 are prohibited from 7 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. and from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.

A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas
One motorist got this ticket or multa and figures the multi-part document will cost him a tucán.
The Sala IV constitutional court has frozen collection of the fines while it hears a challenge to the decree that has the strength of a law. However, if the challenge fails, the tickets will be collectable.

Film festival displays productions from all over Latin America
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A film festival featuring movies from Latin America started Tuesday and will run through Aug. 26.

The Festival de Cine Latinoamericano shows one film every night at 7 p.m. at the Cine Variedades on Avenida Central between Calles 1 and 5.  The 11 films are all works from Latin American directors.  Entrance to all showings is free.    

The scheduled films, starting in order from today, are: “Di a un Buen Día a Papá,” by Bolivian director Fernando Vargas; “Vampiros en la Habana,” by Cuban directors Juan Ruíz and Guillermo Ochoa; “Florentino y el Diablo,” by Venezuelan director Michael New;
“1809-1810 Mientras Llega el Día,” by Ecuadorian director Camilo Luzuriaga; “Narradores de Javé,” by Brazilian director Elianne Café; “El Abrazo Partido,” by Argentinean director Daniel Burman; “La Fibre del Loco,” by Chilean director Andrés Wood and “Edipo Alcalde,” by Colombian director Jorge Alí Triana. 

The idea for the festival was the brainchild of several Latin American embassies in Costa Rica, but primarily that of Mexico, said Julio Acuña of the Centro de Cine. 

The object is to expose Latin American films to the public that normally wouldn't be able to gain space in a regular theater, said Acuña.  For more information, call Acuña at 222-9329.

Bush decides to continue program in Colombia to stop drug flights
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

President George Bush has authorized the United States to continue helping Colombia ground or even shoot down suspected drug flights.

A White House statement Wednesday said Bush authorized the State Department to continue aid to the so-called "Airbridge Denial Program."

The statement said the president has determined that Colombia has put in place appropriate procedures to
protect against the loss of innocent life during interdiction operations.

Colombia and Peru are in the Airbridge Denial Program.  It was suspended after a Peruvian fighter jet shot down a U.S. missionary plane in April 2001 after mistaking it for a drug-smuggling flight.  The program resumed over Colombia in 2003.

Colombia has received more than $3 billion in U.S. aid over the past five years in an effort to wipe out cocaine and heroin production and crush leftists.

Marchers demand that Brazil's da Silva step down over payoff scandal
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

BRASILIA, Brazil — Thousands of protesters have marched in this Brazilian capital to demand that President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva step down over a deepening corruption scandal.

The demonstration took place Wednesday and was much larger than a pro-da Silva rally Tuesday. A group of leftist parties organized the latest protest.
The scandal involves accusations the ruling Workers Party paid monthly bribes to legislators to support government bills in Congress. The party has apologized to the country for the crisis, blaming it on rogue aides.

Last week, President da Silva publicly apologized for the scandal, but denied any involvement. A recent poll showed the scandal has hurt Mr. da Silva's popularity and that he could lose next year's election.

Overcrowded boat flounders, and more than 100 persons are missing
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The Colombian navy says more than 100 Ecuadorean migrants are missing and feared drowned after their overcrowded boat capsized and sank in the Pacific Ocean.

Authorities said Wednesday that the migrants, hoping to enter the United States illegally, were aboard the vessel when it sank Friday off Colombia's coast.
Seven men and two women survived. They were rescued by a fishing boat. Investigators say the overcrowded Ecuadorean vessel had the capacity for 15 people but that as many as 120 people may have been on board.

The Colombian navy has deployed an airplane and boat to search for bodies. Ecuador is also participating in the search. Officials say the doomed boat had set sail from the Ecuadorean port of Manta.

Jo Stuart
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