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(506) 2223-1327        Published Friday, Aug. 21, 2009,  in Vol. 9, No. 165     E-mail us
Jo Stuart
Real Estate
About us

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U.S. Treasury Department graphic
Graphic shows the alleged relationship between high ranking members of the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia and José Cayetano Melo Perilla.

U.S. designates businessman here as drug kingpin
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

In a revelation that is sure to unsettle the central government, the U.S. Treasury Department Thursday designated a Colombian living in Costa Rica as a high-ranking official of the terrorist Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia.

The disclosure was by the department's Office of Foreign Assets Control. Officially the man, José Cayetano Melo Perilla, has been designated a drug kingpin. The disclosure means that U.S. citizens are barred from doing business with the man or the four companies the department said he operates.

Melo runs a tomato production facility in Costa Rica under the name of Carillanca S.A. This is a well-known agricultural enterprise that has been in business for at least 10 years. Last year the  Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture included the facility on a tour it ran for Caribbean government ministers. The institute said that Carillanca exports 30 percent of its production to the United States and several Caribbean islands, such as Puerto Rico and Martinique. The other 70 percent is sold to the Wal-Mart supermarket chain in Costa Rica, the institute said.

The company produces tomatoes in greenhouses, using hydroponics and environmentally friendly technologies, said the institute.

Thursday's action, pursuant to the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act (Kingpin Act), is the Office of Foreign Assets Control's tenth set of designations against the Fuerzas Armadas, known as FARC, since 2004.  These designations under the Kingpin Act freeze any assets Melo and his companies may have under U.S. jurisdiction and prohibit U.S. persons from conducting financial or commercial transactions with them. 

"Although recent actions by the Colombian government have undercut the FARC significantly, it continues to be the leading trafficker of narcotics out of Colombia," said Adam J. Szubin, director of Foreign Asset Control.  "Today's designation builds on our long standing campaign against the FARC by targeting a key trafficker and money launderer."

Melo, a Colombian national and resident of Costa Rica, is a narcotics trafficker and important financial contact for the Fuerzas Armadas' 27th Front, which is led by Luis Eduardo López Méndez (a.k.a. "Efren Arboleda"), said the Treasury Department. López Méndez ultimately reports to the Fuerzas Armadas; chief of military operations and commander of the Eastern Bloc, Victor Julio Suarez Rojas (a.k.a. "Mono Jojoy"), it said.  Suarez Rojas and López Méndez were previously designated as kingpin, Suarez Rojas  Feb.18, 2004, and López Méndez Nov. 1, 2007, according to the Treasury Department.

In addition to the Costa Rican hydroponic tomato company, also designated Thursday were the following companies owned by Melo: Carillanca Colombia y Cia S en CS, a Colombian company
dedicated to hydroponic agriculture; Carillanca C.A., a company located in Venezuela whose focus is real estate and construction; and Parqueadero De La 25-13, a commercial parking lot located in Bogota, Colombia, said the Treasury Department.

The Fuerzas Armadas was identified by President George Bush as a significant foreign narcotics trafficker, or drug kingpin, pursuant to the Kingpin Act on May 29, 2003.  The State Department designated the Fuerzas Armadas as a specially designated global terrorist in 2001 pursuant to Executive Order 13224 and as a foreign terrorist organization in 1997, said the Treasury Department.

In addition to the 82 drug kingpins designated by the president, 498 businesses and individuals have been designated pursuant to the Kingpin Act since June 2000, said the Treasury Department.  None of them was a Costa Rican resident.

Penalties for violations of the Kingpin Act include civil penalties of up to $1.075 million per violation, criminal penalties for corporate officers up to 30 years in prison and $5 million in fines, and criminal fines for corporations up to $10 million.  Other individuals face up to 10 years in prison for criminal violations of the Kingpin Act and fines determined pursuant to Title 18 of the United States Code, said the Treasury Department.

The Treasury Department credited the Drug Enforcement Administration for providing the information that led to Thursday's action. Agents of the U.S. anti-drug organization are stationed at the U.S. Embassy in Pavas.

This is the third major disclosure of penetration of Costa Rican society by Colombian terrorists in the last three years. In 2006 Fuerzas Armadas commander Héctor Orlando Martínez Quinto was arrested while living an apparently normal life in Puntarenas. Investigators eventually credited him with organized elements of the Pacific coast fishing fleet as drug smugglers. He had managed to gain residency, as has Melo. Martínez was a commander in the Frente 58 and was considered the front's main logistical officer outside the country.

After Colombian soldiers raided across the border into Ecuador March 1, 2008, data on a confiscated Fuerzas Armadas computer led Costa Rican police to the home of a elderly professor who was holding a stash of money in a household safe for a Fuerzas Armadas leader.

Although not directly related to the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias, aides to President Óscar Arias Sánchez said two years ago that illegal Colombians had entered the country with the intent to assassinate high government officials. The theory was that the Arias administration was intercepting too many drug smuggling boats. Several young men were rounded up and deported, but none had the profile of a paid assassin.

When they arrived in Colombia they were set free by officials there.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Aug. 21, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 165

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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.


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ask Angela Jiménez
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Insurance brokers

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Disney Financial Group is licensed in Arizona, Florida, Nevada, New Mexico and Texas.

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Dr. Marco A. Mora Aguilar, Neurosurgeon
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Hearing consultant

English-speaking hearing consultant
We can professionally evaluate your hearing problem at Clinica Dinamarca off Paseo Colón or at Hospital CIMA.
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Real estate agents and services

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506 2777-1197

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7Legal services

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Member: Cenpac, AmCham
Jaco: Tel. 2643-3058 - Fax. 2643-0358
US & Canada: 1-305-280-6860
Skype: hernandez.mussio
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 Phone: (506) 2232-1014

Electric consumers get
a 7.2 percent rate cut

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The price regulating agency has reduced electric rates an average of 7.2 percent, it said Thursday.

The action was by Fernando Herrero, regulador general of the Authoridad Reguladora de Servicios Públicos.

The reduction benefits all electric customers but the amount of the rate reduction depends on which company provides the services. For example, the Compañía Nacional de Fuerza y Luz will cut its rates 6.9 percent on average. The Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad will reduce the rates for its retail consumers by 7.4 percent, the authority said.

The institute, which is the major generator of electricity, said it would study the rate reduction. The authority said it did not take into consideration the massive damage to the Cariblanco hydro generating station due to the Jan. 8 earthquake in the Cinchona area. It said it was seeking more information from the institute.

The authority did praise private groups for opposing an initial rate hike. An organization of companies that use great amounts of electricity opposed an earlier increase and pointed out that the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad had saved a lot of money by not having to run its petroleum-fired generating plants as much this year. The organization wanted a 10 to 14 percent rebate.

The rates are not yet a done deal. The authority said the new rate structure would go into effect Sept. 1, but then a period of revision and appeals would follow.

Five detained in kidnapping,
and crime was inside job

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The kidnapping of an Atenas businessman at his finca or farm last Friday appears to have been an inside job.

Agents made five arrests Thursday, and two of the arrested individuals turned out to be agricultural employees of the abducted man.

All of those detained work in agriculture. Agents raided some of the homes and said they had found part of the ransom money.  Agents quickly suspected that the kidnapping was done by individuals who knew the victim. The kidnappers timed his arrival at his farm near Cóbano on the Nicoya peninsula, and they kept their faces covered with ski masks. The man was held until Tuesday when his family paid a ransom of 10 million or more colons.

The Poder Judicial confirmed three arrests late in the date, but local sources said two other persons had been arrested.

The victim, identified by the last name of González, was not seriously hurt.

Liceo students cross town
to attack San Pedro school

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Students from the infamous Liceo de Costa Rica attacked a San Pedro high school with rocks and bottles Thursday morning, and the Fuerza Pública detained 11 students.

The Liceo, based in downtown San José is particularly pugnacious, and each year students engage in some kind of brawl with a similar school. Thursday it was the Colegio Vargas Calvo in San Pedro. The Liceo students were responding to what may have been an earlier fist fight between one of their own and a Vargas Calvo student.

The students swarmed from San José and began throwing rocks, sticks and bottles at the school windows, said police. The students also damaged some vehicles parked nearby.

All of the detained students were minors, said police.

Export decline improves
and diversification credited

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The commerce ministry said that national exports from January to July were off about 13.3 percent from the year before but that the difference is less than a comparison between the first four months of 2009 with 2008. Total exports for the first half of the year were $5 billion, said the Ministerio de Comercio Exterior.

The minister, Marco Vinicio Ruiz, said that Costa Rica has taken less of a hit than other countries because of the diversification of exports, the opening of new markets and the attraction of foreign direct investment.

The export of electronic parts was off about 9.2 percent when compared with the first half of 2008, said the ministry. Total exports were about $200 million. The export of fruit juices and concentrates was up from 7 to 14 percent depending on the product when compared to 2008.

A decline of more than 28 percent in the textile exports as well as slack demand for construction products caused a reduction in exports of 15 percent in the industrial sector when compared to the first half of 2008, said the ministry.

Design fair this weekend

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Today, Saturday and Sunday designers and graphic artists will be displaying their works at the VIII Expográfico Centroamérica 2009.  The participants range from traditional graphic artists to health and beauty firms and even authors and publicity agencies. The event is in the Torre Geko of the Plaza Real Cariari west of San José. 

New outlets ask for end
to off-the-record talks

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A coalition of a dozen U.S. news organizations has asked more than 600 government press secretaries to end the practice of off-the-record speeches and briefings.

The request was made in a letter to the press secretaries, who mostly are in Washington, D.C.

"This practice primarily involves congressional and federal agency staff members, who frequently offer insight into policy deliberations at widely attended events such as conferences, but either refuse to allow reporters to use the information or insist that they not be named in news stories," said the letter.

"Keeping public remarks by officials at all levels in the government on the record will greatly improve transparency and accountability for taxpayers," said the letter.

The news organizations included The New York Times, the  American Society of News Editors, the  Newspaper Association of America, the  Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and the Radio-Television News Directors Association.

A.M. Costa Rica raised the issue of background briefings June 30 when it reported on a curious telephone press briefing by two unnamed State Department officials. They were talking about the Honduras situation, and a State Department aide referred to them only as Mr. Senior Administration Official Number One and Mr. Senior Administration Official Number Two. One almost certainly was Thomas A. Shannon, Jr., then the assistant secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs.

A number of well-known reporters participating in the conference call appeared to know the identity of the administration officials. A.M. Costa Rica did not participate but wrote about it later from a transcript.

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A.M. Costa Rica
users guide

This is a brief users guide to A.M. Costa Rica.

Old pages
Each day someone complains via e-mail that the newspages are from yesterday or the day before. A.M. Costa Rica staffers check every page and every link when the newspaper is made available at 2 a.m. each weekday.

So the problem is with the browser in each reader's computer. Particularly when the connection with the  server is slow, a computer will look to the latest page in its internal memory and serve up that page.

Readers should refresh the page and, if necessary, dump the cache of their computer, if this problem persists. Readers in Costa Rica have this problem frequently because the local Internet provider has continual problems.

The A.M. Costa Rica search page has a list of all previous editions by date and a space to search for specific words and phrases. The search will return links to archived pages.

A typical edition will consist of a front page and four other newspages. Each of these pages can be reached by links near the top and bottom of the pages.

Five classified pages are updated daily. Employment listings are free, as are listings for accommodations wanted, articles for sale and articles wanted. The tourism page and the real estate sales and real estate rentals are updated daily.

Advertising information
A summary of advertising rates and sizes are available for display and classifieds.

A.M. Costa Rica makes its monthly statistics available to advertisers and readers. It is HERE! 

Contacting us
Both the main telephone number and the editor's e-mail address are listed on the front page near the date.

Visiting us
Directions to our office and other data, like bank account numbers are on the about us page.

Did you try
to call us?

We're not trying to avoid you. We just are victims of another ICE problem.

The workmen came and disconnected the phones in our old office before they found out that they did not have sufficient space to install the lines in the new office.

You can reach us at 8832-5564.

But Internet is best.

-A.M. Costa Rica 

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Aug. 21, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 165

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Playa Hermosa concession holders face new assessed values
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A reader in Playa Hermosa reported late Thursday that those who hold concessions south of Jacó are being invited to a meeting to learn about the reassessment of their properties.

The meeting is Wednesday at 2 p.m in the municipal building. The evaluator, identified as Arturo Morales Meza of the Direccion General de Tributación, will be present to explain the process. The text of a note distributed to concession holders says that the evaluations already have been completed and that the assessor will reveal the new figures at the end of the meeting.

The note says that the reassessments were done starting April 15.

Tributación, the tax collecting agency, has been conducting
rolling reassessments of concession land along the Pacific
coast. Residents on concessions in the Cóbano area were shocked at the new figures. The value of concessions are being enhanced by the transfer of such holdings to hotel and other tourism developers.

Concessions, basically leaseholds, are granted by the municipality and the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo to qualified individuals and companies who seek to develop in the maritime zone along the coast. Many long-time residents obtained concessions long ago and pay little in taxes. They have constructed homes and other facilities on the concession land. Usually this is the property from 50 meters to 200 meters from the mean high tide line.

The sticking point seems to be if land being used as a homesite should be assessed as if it were up for sale to a hotel developer. Tributación does not seem to recognize the difference.

March Monday seeks to defeat bill downgrading park
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Defenders of Parque Nacional Marino las Baulas plan to march Monday from the Catedral Metropolitana on Avenida 2 to the Asamblea Legislativa to demand the rejection of a bill that would downgrade the status of the park.

A measure pending in the legislature would turn the park into a national refuge. The difference is that no private construction is permited in a park but a refuge can have limited development for urban and tourism, said the march organizer, the Program Restauración de Tortuga Marina. The park is a nesting ground for marine turtles.

"By showing our collective strength, we can send a clear message to Óscar Arias and the congressmen and women who will vote on bill 17383 that we will not stand idle while others decide the fate of this country. Please join the growing movement to safeguard Costa Rica’s national parks for future generations to enjoy," said a statement.
The march will be in the afternoon from 1 to 4 p.m. at the same time that lawmakers usually meet in general session.

The sponsor, known as Pretoma, has placed a petition online.

The Parque Nacional Marino las Baulas has been trouble for the central government. There is private construction on part of the area designated for park expansion, and millions of dollars would be needed to buy out the landowners. Many do not want to go. The Sala IV constitutional court has ordered the government to do just that, but there is no money allocated.

Some residents of the area are as much in favor of the bill as the supporters of Pretoma are against it.

The march will be a peaceful event, said organizers, adding "while we have the right to voice our concerns and beliefs, we also have the responsibility to respect others."

An account of years of positive government health care
While the health care/medical insurance debate rages in the U.S., most of the rest of the civilized world has long ago found its own solution to the problem.  Costa Rica is among them, and its answer has been government sponsored universal health care insurance.

There is also private insurance available through the Instituto Nacional de Seguros, a government sponsored monopoly known as INS.  The government recently opened competition so soon there may be other companies for people to turn to. 

My understanding is that INS pays between 80 and 90 percent of medical costs, but the INS patient must pay up front, fill out paper work in order to get reimbursed. Reimbursement may take months, and if you have charged the amount on your credit card, you are stuck with the interest.  There are different types of coverage, I am told.  This information is from a friend who has this insurance. I know of at least three private hospitals that cater to people with private insurance.

When I joined the Caja I was assigned to a hospital and clinic in my area.  But as a patient I was sent to a different hospital if they had some more expertise or a doctor there that could help.  Some doctors work at both private and Caja hospitals. 

Every Costa Rican is supposed to join the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social and soon, by law, new residents must also join.  I joined as soon as I became a pensionada. I believe that what you pay is based upon your income. Most Costa Ricans pay via a deduction from their paychecks. My monthly payments have gone up very little over the years. I then had to go to my assigned clinic and sign up to get a card.  No questions were asked about preconditions.  My coverage was immediate.

At the same time that I enrolled in the Caja as an asegurado voluntario, I applied for a gold card  (ciudadano de oro), which is available to residents and citizens over 65.  This is the card I have referred to that enables me to ride the buses free.
I used to go once a month to a designated office in the Caja building on Avenida 2 to pick up a supply of tickets to ride. New residents’ cédulas now are made of plastic and most buses have machines that register your card (which you have given to the driver so he can put it in the machine).  It is a good idea to have your gold card ready in case the bus driver asks. 
Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart

Most banks have special windows that cater to seniors, pregnant women and those disabled.  You can get in that line, or you can show your gold card to the bank guard and he will put you at the front of the regular line. I find this sometimes difficult to do and it doesn’t hurt to thank the people behind you as you head for the newly available window.

Even the Caja hospitals have special lines for seniors, and at my clinic, if I call the afternoon before I can get an appointment with the doctor the next day.  Otherwise the lines can be long. But if you have a real emergency and call 911, you will get an ambulance promptly and it will deliver you to the emergency room of the government or private hospital you ask for.  The ambulance is free.  And once you are a member of the Caja and pay your monthly premium, you don’t get another bill — even for prescriptions the Caja pharmacies carry.   

All of the above information is based upon my experience.  It has been a while since I have visited the senior section of the Caja building, so procedures (tramites) may have changed. 

I recently read that an 85-year-old man in the States had his pacemaker installed.  According to the writer, it cost $70,000.  Not long ago I had to have my pacemaker replaced. It was originally installed in the U.S. where I had problems with it, which put me in emergency three times. At the Caja I was allowed to choose the pacemaker brand, and it was replaced free of charge . . . so far so good.

The Caja also covers dentists and eye doctors, but I have not taken advantage of either.  In spite of this governmental health coverage, private hospitals and doctors are doing very well. A patient who does not want to wait for attention at a free clinic or hospital can take advantage of private doctors, most of whom, compared to the U.S. are very reasonable. 

People in Costa Rica differ in their opinions about the government managed medical care in Costa Rica.  Over the years, I feel I have received as good care as I did in the States at a fraction of the cost.

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What we published this week: Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Earlier
The contents of this page and this Web site are copyrighted by Consultantes Río Colorado 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007  and 2008 and may not be reproduced anywhere without permission. Abstracts and fair use are permitted.  Check HERE for details

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Aug. 21, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 165

Convict ran advanced fee scam from his cell, agents say
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Investigators say that a prisoner in Centro Penal La Reforma in Alajuela orchestrated a scam that preyed on jobseekers in the Dominican Republic and Panamá.

Agents and Ministerio Público prosecutors conducted two raids Thursday. One of them was at the cell of the convict in a minimum security wing of the prison.

Agents also raided a home in San Joaquín de Flores, where they detained a 40-year-old woman, said the Judicial Investigating Organization.

The scam was reported to be a variation of the advanced fee scheme. Agents said that the man placed ads in newspapers
in the two countries offering jobs on cruise ships. Those
who applied by calling his cell phone number in prison were told that certain fees were needed for immigration clearnance and air tickets, said the Judicial Investigating Organization. The woman had the job of picking up the money, said agents.

One individual sent nearly $2,000, agents said.

Prison guards confiscated a notebook containing details of the operation, said agents.

The use of cell phones by prisoners is supposed to be prohibited. Prison officials have installed electronic systems to block the frequencies used by cell phones. That is because prisoners frequently run scams and extortions from their cells. There was no indication how this individual was able to use the cell phone.

Seminars on new traffic law begin today as lawmakers move to change it
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Today in Abangares in Guanacaste transport officials will be starting a series of seminars and fairs where they will outline the requirements under the new traffic law that is supposed to go into effect Sept. 23.

Meanwhile in the Asamblea Legislative lawmakers are trying to put off the effective date of the law for six more months.

The informational fairs cover such points as the correct use of a child booster seat, the need for helmets for motorcyclists and bicyclists, and the point system that has
been constructed to suspend the license of frequent violators.

Sept. 4 the informational meeting will be in Heredia, Sept. 11 the seminar will be in Palmares, Alajuela Sept. 16 and in San José Sept. 23, the presumed effective date of the law, said transport officials.

Already two aspects of the law have gone into effect. These are the stiff penalties for drunk driving and for reckless driving. Lawmakers do not plan to change those parts of the law. The law requires a reflective vest for motorcyclists and that each motorist carry a fire extinguisher and a medical kit in a vehicle.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Aug. 21, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 165

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U.S. indicts cartel figures
linked to drug smuggling

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

U.S. authorities have announced new charges against members of a Mexican drug cartel accused of smuggling vast quantities of cocaine and other narcotics into the United States.

The Justice Department unveiled indictments against 43 leaders, members and associates of the powerful Sinaloa drug cartel, which is blamed for much of the drug-related violence that has claimed thousands of lives along the U.S.-Mexico border in recent years.

"We allege that these defendants shipped multi-ton quantities of narcotics into the United States through various established smuggling corridors and then through a network of affiliated distributors, disbursed these drugs into cities and neighborhoods around the country," said Attorney General Eric Holder.

Holder said the alleged smuggling spans nearly two decades, and has brought real harm and suffering to both the United States and Mexico.

"These cartels are not abstract organizations operating in far-off places," he said. "They are multi-billion dollar networks funneling drugs onto our streets. What invariably follows these drugs is more crime and more violence in our communities."

The attorney general paid tribute to Mexico's efforts to battle drug cartels and said the United States must do its part.

"Our friends and partners in Mexico are waging an historic and heroic battle with the cartels as we speak," said the U.S. attorney general. "This is not a fight that we in the United States can afford to watch from the sidelines. The stakes are too high and the consequences are too real for us."

President Barack Obama has met twice in recent months with his Mexican counterpart, Felipe Calderón. On both occasions, lawlessness and bloodshed along the 3,000-kilometer U.S.-Mexico border emerged as a topic of discussion. While both countries continue to devote significant resources to law enforcement efforts to battle drug trafficking, many experts say smuggling will persist so long as demand for illegal narcotics remains high in the United States and other nations.

For your international reading pleasure:

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Aug. 21, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 165

Latin American news
Weekly economic news
 reported to be a mixed bag

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A mixed bag of economic news Thursday shows a record number of U.S. homeowners having problems repaying their mortgage loans and more troubles in the job market. At the same time, other studies show an improving economy.

The American Bankers Association, an industry group, says more than 9 percent of home loans are one month or more behind in their payments. Other measures of housing problems also hit record highs.

A separate report showed more U.S. workers applied for unemployment compensation last week. Labor Department officials say the number of newly laid-off workers rose by 15,000 to a total of 576,000.

But the Conference Board, a private research group, says the U.S. economy will continue to improve in the next six to nine months. Its index of leading indicators rose by six-tenths of a percentage point in July. It was the fourth month in a row the index improved.

U.S. stock prices have fluctuated wildly this week, falling sharply Monday, then rebounding Tuesday — only to open lower before climbing again on Wednesday. Analysts say the price swings are likely to continue. Despite some positive earnings reports and signs of improving stability, some investors worry American consumers are not doing enough to lift the U.S. economy out of recession.

Stock prices continue to zigzag on Wall Street, as investors swing back and forth between optimism and despair. Although experts say the U.S. economy is starting to stabilize, for some Americans, the world's largest economy often boils down to a price tag.

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