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(506) 2223-1327        Published Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2009,  in Vol. 9, No. 163     E-mail us
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big mess on the coast
A.M. Costa Rica/Greg Golojuch
The only word that leaps to mind from this photo is Whoops! The arm of a backhoe became entangled in utility lines in Ocotal Tuesday and eventually dragged down about a half mile of the cables.  Residents along that part of the Pacific coast were without telephone, electrical
and Internet service for much of the day. Part was restored by 3 p.m. and by 5 p.m. service to even more homes was restored, according to residents.  Cooperguanacaste, the Instituto Costarricensese de Electricidad and Amnet were working despite a late afternoon rain.


Atenas businessman released unharmed by abductors
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Kidnappers released a 32-year-old Atenas businessman Tuesday after his family paid at least 10 million colons in ransom, some $17,150.

Investigators and police were to resume a manhunt for the four captors on the Nicoya peninsula this morning.

The kidnapping took place Friday when the man visited a finca or farm he owns near Cóbano on the southern part of the peninsula, according to Jorge Rojas, director of the Judicial Investigating Organization. The payment was made and the man was released about 2:30 p.m.
The man, identified by the last name of González, was confronted by four masked men about 8 p.m. Friday, Rojas said.

The amount of the ransom was reported differently by Rojas and by family members. Rojas said 10 million but the family said 13 million.

Kidnapping for ransom is epidemic elsewhere in Latin America. Those cases that happen here sometimes are linked to debts the victim owes a third party.

Investigators suspect that the four kidnappers are hiding out in a mountainous area near Manzanillo de Cóbano.


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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 163

Costa Rica Expertise
Costa Rica Expertise Ltd http://crexpertise.com E-mail info@crexpertise.com Tel:506-256-8585 Fax:506-256-7575

Puriscal Properties
sportsmens update
Click HERE for great hotel discounts

Professional Directory
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.


Appraiser

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Insurance brokers

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Residency experts

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Physicians and surgeons

Dr. Marco A. Mora Aguilar, Neurosurgeon
Dr. Mora
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Available for surgery in any of the private hospitals in San José.
                
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Psychiatrist

Dr. Luis Carlos Sancho Torres
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Dr. Sancho
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• methadone

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office: 2246-3458 or 2246-3459
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Dentists and dental surgery

Dental Cosmetics Costa Rica
Our office offers a wide variety of cosmetic and restorative treatments at very affordable prices. Fillings,
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Hearing consultant

English-speaking hearing consultant
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Acupuncture physician

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Accountants

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Real estate agents and services

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7Legal services

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BUFETE HERNANDEZ MUSSIO Y ASOCIADOS

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Skype: hernandez.mussio
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 Phone: (506) 2232-1014

Agricultural worker held
in serial rapes in Grecia

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Investigators detained a serial rape suspect in a case that involves at least 10 cases with young women as victims in and around Grecia. The man is an agricultural worker who lives in San Pedro de Valverde Vega.

The rapist preys on young women from 12 to 18 who are on foot in isolated areas such as Cirri, San Jerónimo and Sarchi. The rapist hid his face with a ski mask and used a knife to frighten his victims into submission.

Investigators said there may be more cases than the 10 for which formal complaints have been filed.

The man was detained about 1 p.m. after Judicial Investigating Organization agents saw him acting what they said was suspiciously in a coffee plantation.

Sala IV orders construction
of Golfito sewer plant


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Sala IV constitutional court has ordered agencies in the Golfito area to build a sewage treatment plant immediately.

The court acted on a complaint from a resident, identified by the last names of Campos Salas, who said that raw sewage was flowing into the Golfo Dulce and causing a high degree of pollution in the area. He said it was a danger to public health and also affected fishing.

The court levied the order against the Instituto Costarricense de Acueductos y Alcantarillados, the Ministerio de Salud and the Asociación Administrativa del Acueducto.

LIke many Costa Rican communities, Golfito had no sewage plant. The bulk of the Central Valley does not have one either, and raw sewage from the country's major population area flows in the Río Grande de Tarcoles and then into the Gulf of Nicoya. However, plans are under way to construct a plant in Pavas.

Women's Club auction Sept. 6
to raise money for schools


Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Every child dreams of finding a rainbow’s pot of gold.  That’s the inspiration of a fund-raising auction being held by the Women’s Club of Costa Rica Sept. 6 from 2 to 6 p.m., at the Aurola Holiday Inn in downtown San José.  The announcement was made by Bonnie Murry, president of the association.

One of the most beautiful sights in nature, the rainbow has become in western culture a symbol of renewed hope; something lucky to look upon, said the club in a release.  All funds raised at the Women’s Club of Costa Rica Under the Rainbow auction that Sunday are destined to provide libraries and scholarships for Costa Rican school children, helping to make their dreams come true, said the club. 

Complementing programs of the Ministerio de Educación Pública, the Women’s Club of Costa Rica has provided more than $129,000 in scholarships in the last five years.  Since its beginning in 1977, this program has benefited thousands of high school students.  2004 saw inauguration of a library project to equip schools with library books for leisure reading, shelving, tables and chairs. 

“We are privileged to enjoy life in Costa Rica.” said Ms. Murry, “In giving back to the community, there is nothing more fulfilling than supporting educational opportunities for the children who are the bright stars in the future of our adopted country.”

Auction items will range from exotic vacation opportunities to jewelry, artwork, gourmet dining, beauty services, and much more.  Offers of auction items and sponsorship of the event are welcomed (in English or Spanish) at 2285-1276, fundraising@wccr.org.

Tickets for the Under the Rainbow live and silent auction event, at 15,000 colons per person or two for 25,000 colons, include bocas, complimentary wine, music and free parking in the lots adjacent to the Holiday Inn.  To purchase, contact 2268-3748 (English or Spanish) or fundraising@wccr.org or the Association of Residents of Costa Rica at 2221-2053. 

The Women’s Club of Costa Rica is a philanthropic organization supporting education, primarily through scholarships and development of school libraries for children in Costa Rica. Founded in 1940, it is one of the oldest, continuously operating service organizations in Costa Rica.   The club's English-speaking membership of over 250 women of all ages, representing 25 countries of the world, is drawn together by the motto of Friendship through Service.   Monthly meetings with guest speakers are held the second Wednesday of each month.  Further information can be found at www.wccr.org

Mrs. Clinton says critics
of Colombia pact are wrong

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Tuesday the pending U.S.-Colombia defense cooperation agreement would not create U.S. bases in the South American country or significantly increase the American military presence there. Mrs. Clinton discussed the soon-to-be-finalized accord with the Colombian foreign minister, Jaime Bermudez.  The two governments reached provisional agreement on the defense accord, giving U.S. forces access to Colombian bases to tackle regional drug-trafficking and terrorism, late last week.

It has since been a focus of heavy criticism for some Latin American leaders, notably Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, who has depicted the accord as a manifestation of U.S. imperialism that could provoke war in the region.

At a joint press appearance with her Colombian colleague, Mrs. Clinton suggested opponents of the agreement were wrongly characterizing it, either deliberately or out of ignorance of its actual terms.

She said the deal, to be finalized in the near future, gives American forces access to Colombia bases but that command, control and administration of the facilities will remain in Colombian hands.

"Any U.S. activity will have to be mutually agreed upon in advance. The United States does not have, and does not seek, bases inside Colombia. Second, there will be no significant permanent increase in the U.S. military presence in Colombia. The Congressionally-mandated cap on the number of U.S. service members and contractors will remain, and will be respected," she said.

Mrs. Clinton also said the agreement is entirely about cooperation between the United States and Colombia and does not pertain to other countries.

The secretary, asked about the criticism by Chavez, did not mention him by name but said she hoped critics of the accord would take time to read it and understand that it only builds on past U.S.-Colombian cooperation. That includes, she said, the anti-drug aid program Plan Colombia initiated by her husband's administration in 1999.

Bermudez, for his part, said the pending agreement is founded on the the basic principle of non-interference in other countries' affairs. He was heard through an interpreter.

"The principles contained therein are very clear. The principle of sovereign equality of states. The principle of non-intervention. And the principle of the territorial integrity of states. These are very important tenets, and I think it would be extremely good to have more agreements, not just with the United States but with other states in the same vein," he said.

The accord would permit the U.S. military to, among other things, operate surveillance fights from seven Colombian bases to track drug-running boats in the Pacific.

The United States turned to Colombia after Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa, a political ally of President Chavez, refused to renew an agreement that gave U.S. monitoring planes access to Ecuador's Manta air base.

A State Department fact sheet on the agreement issued Tuesday said a Congressional cap limiting the U.S. presence in Colombia to 800 military personnel and 600 civilian contractors at any time will be faithfully respected.

It said in recent years the actual U.S. contingent has averaged less that half those levels and been in a gradual decline.

Famous flu sufferer Arias
is back in public life


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President Óscar Arias Sánchez is back in public after a week-long confinement at his Rohrmoser home because he had the swine flu.

Arias reported that he had a light case. He was well enough Tuesday to host a performance by the Cooperativa del Colegio de Aguas Zarcas chorus at his home. Then he inaugurated the Centro Nacional de Innovaciones Biotecnológicas of the Ministerio de Ciencia y Tecnología.

Meanwhile, the toll of swine flu-related deaths climbed to 31 with the death of three more individuals. There are 982 confirmed cases with more than 1,000 under study. More than 60 percent of the cases are among persons age 30 and under, said the Ministerio de Salud. The ministry said that obesity, asthma and pregnancy were risk factors.

The ministry also said that cases were increasing in the provinces of Limón and Heredia and, to some extent, in Guanacaste.

The biotechnology center that Arias inaugurated is for plants and not people. This is a location where a pilot biofuels project will be developed. The facility has five labs. It was built with financial help from the European Union.

Gunmen attack newspaper
with automatic weapons


Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Pre-dawn gunmen Tuesday raked the building housing the newspaper El Siglo de Torreón in the Mexican state of Coahuila.

The newspaper reported that around 1 a.m. unidentified assailants sprayed the building with high-caliber bullets as employees were working in the pressroom, according to the Inter American Press Association in Miami, Florida.

The entrance doors were almost completely destroyed, shattering glass panes and impacting walls and furniture inside. Police recovered dozens of spent AK-47 and AR-15 shell cases. No one was injured in the attack.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 163

another great month
Your Costa Rica


Nation's newest park to host festival for children Sunday
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Parque La Libertad is not fully developed yet, but youngsters are being invited to the Central Valley's newest park this Sunday for a festival of theater and literature.

The park is being developed as a cultural, training and recreational center for the estimated 400,000 persons living south and east of San José.

The program Sunday begins at 9 a.m. and runs through 4 p.m. The Ministerio de Cultura, Juventud y Deportes is directing the event with help from the Museo Nacional.

At 10 a.m. there is a dramatic production called "Si los pájaros hablarán," put on by actors with big bird masks. At 11 a.m. there is a concert by the Escuela de Artes Musicales de Desamparados. At noon the puppets take over with a show called "Un bicho diferente."

At 2 p.m. there is a demonstration of how children's books are illustrated. The final event is storytelling.

The park is located in La Unión and Patarrá or a kilometer south of the Catholic church in San Antonio de Desamparados and 300 meters east and 100 meters north.
This is the second such festival held at the park. The first was in May.

Coincidentally, the culture ministry announced the winner last week of a design contest to lay out the park master plan. The winner was the firm Sanjoserevés. All the designs are being exhibited until Aug. 30 at the Museo de Arte y Deseño Contemporáneo. There were 19 submissions from some of the nation's leading architectural firms.

The park was donated in part by the Holcim firm. Part of the area was the Río Azul landfill. The master plan is ambitious. Part of the emphasis will be artistic with the 
If the birds could talk
Ministerio de Cultura, Juventud y Deportes photo
'Si los pájaros hablarán' actors in a prior performance

development of theaters, a children's library, digital production facilities and places for dance and other workshops. The recreational emphasis will be addressed with bike paths, sports fields, basketball courts, horse trails, skating areas and a children's park. There also are plans for a meditation area with running water.

The environmental emphasis will be addressed with gardens, training in gardening, a recycling center and development of alternative energy demonstrations. There also will be space for about 20 vendors who will offer traditional foods, said the ministry. Also planned are event centers, including one with space for 3,000 spectators. The park is supposed to be developed over years with attention to the master plan.


Denver-based firm rents Heredia space for 400 employees
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

StarTek, a New York Stock Exchange-listed provider of high-value business process outsourcing services, announced Tuesday the signing of a lease for a new contact center in Costa Rica.

The company is expected to open the center in the first quarter of 2010. This will increase the number of operating facilities to 20 for the company.

“We chose to expand into Latin America for several reasons,” said Larry Jones, StarTek’s president and chief executive officer. “We found a large, well-educated, bilingual talent pool and a good business climate in Costa Rica. All of these factors are advantageous to our global growth.”
The center is located in the America Free Trade Zone Center in Heredia. The planned 400-seat facility is approximately 37,000 square feet. Seasoned Latin American executive Ryan Carey has been hired as site director to build the local team, said the company.

“There is a high market demand for a near-shore option among both our new and existing client base,” continued Jones. “We are in discussions with several existing clients interested in expanding their programs into the new space.”

The StarTek comprehensive service suite includes customer care, sales support, complex order processing, accounts receivable management, technical support and other industry-specific processes.

The company is headquartered in Denver, Colorado.


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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 163



19th century Cartago church picked for restoration grant
Church photo
Nuestra Señora María Auxiliadora church in Barrio El Molino de Cartago.
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A Cartago Catholic church project will be the recipient of 100 million colons (about $171,500) as the winner of a culture ministry contest. The winner is the Nuestra Señora María Auxiliadora church in Barrio El Molino de Cartago. The contest is the XII Certamen Salvemos Nuestro Patrimonio Arquitectónico 2009 sponsored by the Centro de Patrimonio del Ministerio de Cultura, Juventud y Deportes. The goal is to aid in the restoration of historic structures.

The 19th century neoGothic church was reconstructed from 1910 to 1914 due to damage suffered in the Cartago earthquake.

The winning proposal was submitted by Carlos Araya Aguilar, an architect, who will supervise the project. Ministry officials estimate that the award amount will be about 25 percent of what will be needed to complete the project. The initial work will be in rebuilding the church towers which show signs of deterioration. The roof also will be redone, according to the ministry. The church parish will be raising about 300 million, the ministry said.

The ministry said that the church is one of the few examples of neoGothic with steel walls. The columns that hold the weight of the roof are original. There are many original wooden elements inside the church, the ministry said. The church also contains 19th century images of Mary, the mother of Christ, and of San Juan Bosco.


Telecom agency to assert its authority over all networks
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The new telecom agency declared Tuesday that it has control over all communication networks, including those in private buildings. The agency said it would be issuing a regulation for public comment.

The agency, the Superintendencia de Telecomunicaciones, did not mention a territorial dispute between the cable company Amnet and the Compañía Nacional de Fuerza y Luz. But it would seem that the agency is ready to adjudicate that situation. The agency said that it plans to guarantee the right of citizens to obtain telecom services.

Amnet has not moved quickly to put its lines underground even though the power company has insisted. Amnet lines are strung on power company poles, as are the telephone lines. The power company has had its lines underground as part of a city beautification effort for three years. Some Amnet customers lost service in the central city last week when someone began taking down the lines.

The Superintendencia said its regulation was to establish a
mechanism for the shared use of utility poles, towers and ducts and to evaluate the quality of these services.

However, the agency also said that it also would regulate the telecom infrastructure in buildings, subdivisions, construction projects for residences, businesses, industries, schools and tourist operations to provide interconnectivity.

It said that in case of conflict the Superintendencia would impose obligations of free passage and shared use. It also said it has the power to modify contracts between parties to guarantee the right to string telecom wires.

It also distributed a sketch that showed the allocation of space on a utility pole for high tension wires, a transformer, electrical lines and cable lines. It said all lines should be at least 6.5 meters (about 21 feet) off the ground and at least 20 centimeters ( about .66 of a foot) apart.

Public comments are being accepted until Aug. 28. Then the proposed regulation will go to the Superintendencia board for likely approval and publication in the La Gaceta official newspaper.


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A.M.
Costa Rica
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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 163

Casa Alfi Hotel

More detainee deaths join list
of those who died in custody


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

U.S. immigration officials say they have discovered the records of 10 previously unreported deaths of immigrants detained in U.S. custody since 2003. Eight of the dead were Cuban nationals, one was from Ecuador and one from Mexico. The American Civil Liberties Union says deficient medical care is believed to be a leading cause of death among immigrant detainees.

The 10 newly-discovered deaths bring the total number of immigrants who have died in U.S. immigration detention to 104 since October 2003. One additional detainee, Huluf Guangule Negusse, a 24-year-old Ethiopian, died on Friday in a Florida prison from the effects of a suicide attempt earlier this month. His death has not yet been added to the official roster.

The U.S. government relies on a patchwork of county jails, federal detention centers and for-profit prisons to hold some 400,000 illegal immigrants a year while it tries to deport them.

Gillian Brigham, a spokeswoman for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency, known as ICE, said the deaths did not show up earlier this year when the agency tried to conduct a comprehensive search of immigrants who died while in custody. The agency says it will conduct a review to ensure the integrity of its record on detainee deaths.

The American Civil Liberties Union had filed a Freedom of Information lawsuit seeking previously unreleased documents related to the deaths of immigration detainees in U.S. custody. The ACLU says deficient medical care is believed to be a leading cause of death among immigration detainees.

David Shapiro is a staff attorney with the ACLU's National Prison Project. He criticized the U.S. immigration system for its lack of transparency and accountability. Shapiro says the ACLU is calling on the Obama administration to put enforceable standards in place so that detainees receive necessary medical services before it is too late.

"What these deaths illustrate in many instances, is that without that sort of enforceable standard in place, errors are going to continue to occur, and in some cases, fatal errors," said Shapiro.

He cited one case in which an immigration detainee was stricken with penile cancer while in U.S. custody, and said medical care came too late to save him.

Earlier this month, the Obama administration announced plans for a major overhaul of the U.S. immigration system. ICE spokeswoman Gillian Brigham said that detention reform is focused on better serving the needs of detainees, many of whom are held for administrative violations, for example of staying in the country once their visa expires.

She says these violators should be differentiated from those who committed felonies. Details are still sketchy on the proposed reform. But ICE Chief John Morton said he would increase oversight of the facilities used to hold immigration detainees.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 163

Latin American news
Five women get long terms
in U.S. sex trafficking case


Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Five women who are members of an extended Guatemalan family were sentenced to federal prison late Monday in Los Angeles, California. All received lengthy sentences for their roles in an international sex trafficking ring that lured young Guatemalan women and girls into the Los Angeles area and forced them into prostitution.

“In this disturbing case, the defendants lured young, uneducated and impoverished women and girls to the United States, where they were forced to work as prostitutes in terrifying conditions,” said U. S. Attorney Thomas P. O’Brien. “There were at least 10 victims who were forced into becoming prostitutes under a variety of threats, as well as actual physical attacks that included rapes.”

The five defendants sentenced yesterday evening, four Guatemalan nationals and one Mexican national, were found guilty in February of various charges that include conspiracy; sex trafficking by force, fraud, or coercion; and importation of aliens for purposes of prostitution. The defendants are: Gladys Vasquez Valenzuela, 38, who was sentenced to 40 years in prison; Mirna Jeanneth Vasquez Valenzuela, also known as Miriam, 28, who was sentenced to 30 years; Gabriel Mendez, the Mexican national, 35, who was sentenced to 35 years; Maria de los Angeles Vicente, known as Angela, 30, who was sentenced to 30 years; and Maribel Rodriquez Vasquez, 29, who was sentenced to 30 years.

During Monday’s sentencing hearing, U. S. District Judge Margaret M. Morrow described the defendants’ conduct as horrific, egregious and repugnant.

The evidence in the case showed that the defendants intimidated and controlled their victims by threatening to beat them and kill their loved ones in Guatemala if they tried to escape. Some defendants also used witch doctors to threaten the girls that a curse would be placed on them and their families if they tried to escape. At least three of the defendants further restrained the victims by locking them in at night and blocking windows and doors to prevent their escape.

The defendants also used manipulation of debts, verbal abuse and psychological manipulation to reinforce their control over the victims. The scheme also included strict controls over the victims’ work schedules and ominous comments about consequences that befell the families of other victims who attempted to escape. Some of the victims were forced to service as many as 30 men per day.

The defendants collected the profits generated by the acts of prostitution the victims were compelled to perform, and maintained control over the prostitution proceeds, earning tens of thousands of dollars while the victims received next to nothing, according to law enforcement officials.

Four additional defendants have pleaded guilty for their role in the scheme.





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