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These stories were published Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2005, in Vol. 5, No. 167
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Digital signature measure flies through Asamblea Legislativa
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Asamblea Legislativa Tuesday night approved a law creating digital signatures.

The concept is that persons, companies and institutions would have a sure way of identifying themselves via digital communication and that the documents generated that way would have authenticity under the law.

The measure passed without opposition, and once signed by President Abel Pacheco, will create a Dirección de Certificadores de Firma Electrónica within the Ministerio de Ciencia y Tecnología. This new infrastructure will allow computer users to register their digital signatures for later verification by others. The typical digital signature relies on cryptography to firmly identify the user.

Lawmakers were upbeat in passing the measure. They had the expectation that government agencies, lawyers and others would be able to use the digital signature to save trips, for example, to the Registro Nacional.
The lawmakers made sure that notaries were not cut out of the transaction. The proposed law says that any electronic document that would require a notary's validation must also have that validation electronically, even though with a registered digital signature there would seem to be no need for a notary.

Costa Rica has a history of signature frauds and false property records. And many of the country's systems are designed to prevent fraud. 

Experiences elsewhere show that the digital signature is only as secure as the computer used to generate it. One court case confirmed a party's right to repudiate an electronic signature.

There already is a growing number of stories on how digital signatures were sidestepped to commit fraud.

The new office of certification of electronic signatures probably will require persons and company representatives to visit in person to do the paperwork to register their electronic signature.


Another murder of a teen schoolgirl is a jolt to the nation
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The country is again shaken by the apparent murder of a teenage girl in what is being studied as a revenge killing.

The death in San Rafael de Oreamuno near Cartago follows by only two weeks, the abduction and murder of another teen on the Pacific coast.

The latest victim is Rosibel Sánchez Ulloa, 15, who vanished Thursday. A neighbor encountered her body Monday.

In both cases the victims were on their way either to or from school, and the deaths have raised concerns about the security of children.
Fuerza Pública officers have arrested one man in the murder of Luz Elena Guzmán, 16. She died Aug. 12 after a masked man abducted her and her sister while they walked down a wooded path near their home in Tárcoles, which is near Jacó. The suspect turned out to be a neighbor.

The cause of the dead Sánchez girl still is unknown. Officials said there were no external signs of violence even though they are handling the case as a murder.

A complicating factor is that her family rented a home for a time to young men who had to be evicted. Police are exploring the vengeance motive. No suspect has been arrested in the latest case.



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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2005, Vol. 5, No. 167

 
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Those fake health products
are going to the dogs


By Jesse Froehling
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Humans aren't the only victims of the fake products. Our furry four-legged companions are also being targeted.  And perhaps in Costa Rica.

Advantage and Frontline, two popular flea and tick products for dogs and cats made by the Bayer Co., have apparently been counterfeited, and the fake products don't work.

Bayer Animal HealthCare animal health division has been working with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for nearly two years to eliminate the illegal products, said a press release issued by the company.

According to the company's Web site, the problem thus far has only affected the United States.  The company advises customers to buy their products only from a licensed veterinarian.  The Environmental Protection Agency has ordered retailers in many states to stop selling counterfeit Advantage products which contain an EPA approval seal.

“Protecting the well-being of animals is Bayer Animal Health's first priority, and we have been working diligently with the EPA and the veterinary profession and its leadership to stop counterfeiters,” said John B. Payne.  Payne is the president of Bayer HealthCare in North America's animal health division.

However, Gerald Thorman of Santa Barbara de Heredia said that when ticks started crawling around on his two miniature poodles, he applied the prescribed dosage from a bottle of Frontline he had picked up from a local veterinarian.  After four days, the two pooches were still infested, he said.     

Officials from Bayer did not return calls requesting information about affected countries outside of the United States, but it appears that the counterfeit products have reached Costa Rica.  The difference is, Thorman said, that he bought his pesticide from a veterinarian here.  The EPA warning says that the best way to avoid buying counterfeit products is to do just that. 

The Environmental Protection Agency has issued guidelines that consumers can follow to determine whether or not the product they have bought is legitimate.  They have also included a picture of a legitimate package and the affected products on it's Web site at http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/factsheets/petproduct.htm.

As for the poodles, Thorman and his wife gave them a good scrubbing and picked up another package of Frontline from a different vet.  Thorman said the package appeared legitimate as stated on the EPA's Web site, but since the labeling is in Spanish, he won't be positive until his native-speaking wife reviews it.  The vet advised him to wait two days before applying the new product.  But if all goes well, his dogs should be critter-free in a few days.   

Man held in death
of his father, 65


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Officials with the Judicial Investigation Organization in San Ramón arrested a 22-year-old man in connection with the death of his father.  The 65-year-old man, identified by the last name Badilla, died Aug. 14 in Hospital México, officials said. 

Investigators allege that the young suspect went to his father's house accompanied by his girlfriend.  The two got in a fight and the son cracked his father in the head with a board.  When the severity of his father's injuries became apparent, the younger man called the Cruz Roja and reported that his father had had an accident, said officials.  The father was taken to the hospital where he stayed until he died.   

When officials with the Judicial Investigation Organization began investigating the case, they found important evidence in the older man's home that suggested that his death was not accidental, officials said. 

Officials say the father and son lived together in San Ramón but according to other sources, the father lived alone. 

Death of U.S. citizen
subject of investigation


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A United States citizen found dead in the Morazán Hotel has been tentatively identified as Gary Gaudette, 50, said officials with the Judicial Investigation Organization. 

Gaudette's body was found Saturday approximately 1:15 p.m., said officials.  He reportedly entered his room earlier in the day with a woman.  She left a short time later and when employees knocked on the door, no one answered, officials said.  Upon entry, Gaudette's death appeared natural and none of his money or personal items were missing, officials said.  The door was locked from the inside and there were no signs of violence. 

An autopsy said that Gaudette had died of natural causes but officials are awaiting a toxicology report to determine whether his body had foreign substances in it.

Southern Nicoya might
return to Guanacaste


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The southern Nicoya Peninsula might get a chance to travel to Guanacaste.

This will not be a gigantic earthmoving project but the result of a proposed law in the Asamblea Legislativa.

The Comisión Permanente de Gobierno y Administración reported Tuesday a measure that, if passed, would put Lepanto, Cóbano and Paquera in the Provincia de Guanacaste. The communities are on the southern section of the Nicoya Peninsula and now are part of the Provincia de Puntarenas.

Also included in the shift would be the various islands in the same area.

The area was included with Puntarenas because that is the nearest large city. However, deputies Sigifredo Aiza and María Lourdes Ocampo, who support the measure, say that history is clear in that the original Partido de Nicoya, which is now Guanacaste, included the communities to the south.

The entire territory entered into Costa Rica voluntarily in 1824.

Not enough for skating

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Thunderstorm activity brought hail to areas south of San José Tuesday.

The pea-sized chunks of ice are the product of repeated visits by droplets to the chilly upper atmosphere. In Dos Rios and areas nearby the ice granules covered the ground briefly in the mid-afternoon.
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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.

Real estate agents and services

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An analysis of the news
Socialism and nationalism seem to be on the rise
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
and special reports

A growing wave of socialism laced with nationalism in Latin America and even in Costa Rica seems to be only one part of a series of challenges to democratic order that will put stress on weakened institutions.

The situation is being polarized by Venezuela's Hugo Chávez and his flirtation with Cuba's Fidel Castro. They were co-anchoring a television show over the weekend.

The drug trade is a contributing factor, compounded by distaste for United States foreign policy and the United States culture. Drugs produce mountains of money, quantities very attractive to Latin politicians and struggling peasants.

The situation grew to headline proportions Aug. 22 when Pat Robertson, a U.S. television preacher, while on the air called for the assasination of Chavez.

In the middle sits Costa Rica whose social welfare state is being undermined by financial realities. The Feb. 5 presidential elections will be the first time that citizens can make their opinion known. The candidates are divided among internationalist free marketers and those who support a nationalistic welfare state.

Already the election is beginning to sound like something from a 1920s Bolshevik propaganda speech. Last week one supporter of the status quo criticized "the totalitarianism of the free market."

In Venezuela the populist Chávez seems ready to take on the mantle of the aging Fidel as the defender of the people. He has what Castro never had: lots of money, thanks to his country's oil revenue. Chávez also seems to be trying to become the patron of revolutions in Bolivia and in Colombia where the government and leftist guerrillas have been locked in a 40-year death grip.

Chávez cannot support the leftist Colombian rebels without at least turning a blind eye to their lucrative drug trade, some of which appears to come through Venezuela's western states.

Briefing the press last week, Scott McCormack, the U.S. State Department spokesman, alluded to the recent unilateral decision by Chavez to suspend counternarcotics cooperation with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, despite the two nations' longstanding joint efforts against drug trafficking.

McCormack suggested that the United States is concerned about the possibility that the decision may serve to benefit drug traffickers. Lately, "there have been some issues" between the two nations with regard to combating the illegal drug trade, he told reporters.

Tensions also have been exacerbated by the harshly anti-American rhetoric often employed by the Chavez administration, he added.  "Venezuelan government officials repeatedly have made baseless and outrageous accusations against DEA officials," said McCormack, in a reference to Chavez's unsubstantiated claims that DEA agents have been spying on Venezuela.  Previously, Chavez had insisted that the United States was plotting to assassinate him.

"We have expressed our concerns to the government of Venezuela on multiple occasions . . . ," said McCormack. 

The United States has voiced concern about other developments, as well.  The Chavez administration's efforts to restrict the press in Venezuela have been condemned by media watchdog organizations and freedom-of-speech advocates, and U.S. officials have described those efforts as harmful to democracy. Of course Chávez accuses the United States of being behind the coup that unseated him briefly in April 2002.

Chávez also is bankrolling a satellite television station, Telesur, with support from Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil. The idea is to counter U.S. cultural influences. The U.S. House responded by authorizing broadcasts to Venezuela to counter the influence of Chávez.

Both Chávez and anti-U.S. groups here see the Central American Free Trade Agreement and a larger hemispheric pact as colonizing efforts by Washington.

The war in Iraq, the disaster in Haiti and the U.S. single-minded anti-drug efforts grate on Latin Americans, and the U.S. has done little and missed many opportunities to ease these concerns. It seems money only flows from Washington to fight guerrillas, fight drug traffickers and to support free trade pacts. Latins resent this.

Chávez

Robertson

Castro

U.S. distances itself
from Robertson comment

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Televangelist Pat Robertson's call for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez was "inappropriate" and does not represent the policy of the United States, according to State Department spokesman Sean McCormack.

On his 700 Club television show Monday, Robertson said Chávez represents a "terrific danger" and called for his assassination as a cheaper alternative to starting a war to remove him.

"We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability," he said.  "We don't need another $200 billion war to get rid of one strong-arm dictator.  It's a whole lot easier to have some of the covert operatives do the job and then get it over with."

McCormack dismissed Robertson's remarks Tuesday as the views of a private citizen that do not reflect U.S. policy. "We do not share his view," he said.  "His comments are inappropriate."

So Central and South America are seeking some development model that will sidestep the free market.  Some form of nationalistic socialism seems attractive. Chávez is president of Venezuela because of the terrible job former presidents did. He offers the people hope. In Costa Rica two formers presidents are in jail, a third under investigation and the current office holder also is the subject of a probe. This does not engender faith in democracy, and half the electorate says it may not vote Feb. 5.

And the appeals of nationalism and socialism are growing here, fostered in part by those who fear they will lose their government jobs if free trade becomes a reality.

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has been trying to bolster U.S. influence. He visited Paraguay and then Peru last week. Rumsfeld's itinerary in Paraguay included talks with President Nicanor Duarte Frutos on concerns about Cuban and Venezuelan influence in neighboring Bolivia.

Bolivian President Carlos Mesa resigned in June after farmers, miners and labor groups staged large protests to demand nationalization of the oil industry and redistribution of energy profits to help the country's poor.

Rumsfeld spoke with President Alejandro Toledo of Peru on hemispheric issues and praised him for his leadership in the fight against illicit narcotics trafficking, terrorism and other shared threats.

"As we discuss the problems that our respective countries face -- of terrorism, dealing with narcotrafficking, hostage-taking, crime -- we realize that these are problems that no country can deal with alone.  It requires regional cooperation," Rumsfeld said at a joint press briefing with Toledo in Lima, Peru.

If the Cuba-Venezuela and U.S. rhetorics escalate into actions, Costa Rica will be drawn in as a bit player the same way the country was during the Nicaraguan civil war. Meanwhile, Nicaragua continues to be unstable with President Enrique Bolaños facing a coalition of the right headed by Arnoldo Alemán and of the Sandinista left under Daniel Ortega. Neither Castro nor Chávez can fail to recognize the opportunities there.

A socialist beacon is Brazil's Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, whose economy has taken off despite recent scandals. But both socialism and extreme nationalism, which concentrate power in the state, also is attractive to those who would rule with a strong hand.

The lessons of the Soviet Union seem to have been put on the shelf.

Meanwhile, a U.S. State Department official said Tuesday that "any allegations that we are planning to take hostile action against the Venezuelan government are completely baseless and without fact."






A report from CR-Home Realty
GRECIA:  The PERFECT PLACE to RETIRE??
If you are frustrated by literally thousands of so called "realtors," insane pricing and confusing Web sites as you endlessly search for the perfect property in Costa Rica . . . . STOP!!
 
We believe that the area of GRECIA offers far more than almost any other area of the country for retirees and those seeking a beautiful and peaceful home in which to enjoy life while enjoying the beauty and security which Costa Rica has to offer.
 
WHY?  ..... read on....

Grecia is Central . . . 50 minutes from San Jose, CIMA hospital, the Multiplaza, sports and cultural events. . . . one half hour from Juan Santamaría airport in Alajuela . . . and a little over an hour to the Central Pacific beaches!

Real estate properties in Grecia are still reasonably priced . . . prices here are about 10% of what they are in Escazú and about half of what they are in neighboring Atenas. Grecia is affordable.

The mountains of Grecia offer the perfect climate: 68-82 degrees all year round.

Grecia has its own hospital with excellent professional services and great shopping.  Every Saturday the town is host to one of the best open air markets in the country.  Fruits and vegetables galore.

Grecia is known as the "cleanest city in Latin America"

No howler monkeys or sloths here, but the area is home to countless flocks of parrots and literally thousands of species of birds and butterflies.


Coffee bushes

Fantastic views


 Bustling downtown Grecia

Because of its location and agricultural base (coffee and sugar cane) Grecia is green ALL YEAR ROUND.  

Crime is extremely low here.  No one worries about walking around town at night here.  There are still petty thefts, but neighbors here watch out for each other.

Everyone who visits Grecia and the area comments on the simplicity of life here.  Life here does proceed at a different pace and the lifestyle here takes us back to a simpler time that nearly all of us wish for but cannot have.  Family is still valued here, and Sunday is family day when extended families get together without fail. 

The builders, contractors and craftsmen here are old fashioned. They keep their word, they are excellent craftsmen who take pride in their work AND they honor their contracts. Most importantly, the properties we have available are drop dead gorgeous! Views, rivers, waterfalls, coffee, sugar cane, privacy.  We most likely have exactly what you thought you could never find. 

If this sounds like Paradise (or maybe that we are exaggerating . . .) come and see for yourselves before everyone discovers Grecia.

CR-HOME REALTY     www.cr-home.com     011-506-444-1695   randy@cr-home.com


Soccer legend admits he cheated in World Cup prelim against England
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Almost 20 years after scoring his controversial "Hand of God" goal against England in the 1986 World Cup quarterfinals, Argentine football legend Diego Maradona has finally admitted he intentionally struck the ball with his hand.

Speaking on his television talk show Monday night, the 45-year-old Maradona admitted he had punched the ball into the net with his hand when he realized he
 could not head it past England's tall goalkeeper, Peter Shilton.

Referees allowed the goal despite protests by England. Argentina went on to win the match 2-1 and eliminate England on the way to winning the World Cup.

Maradona said he waited for his team to congratulate him after the goal, and when no one came he told them "Come hug me or the referee isn't going to allow it."


Another airline crash kills at least 40 persons near Peruvian jungle town
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

At least 40 people have been killed in the crash of a Peruvian airliner near the jungle town of Pucallpa.

Officials say at least 20 people were reported injured in Tuesday's crash of the Tans aircraft, which was carrying about 98 passengers and crew members.
One surviving passenger said the Boeing 737-200 aircraft appeared to have been affected by bad weather and that 10 minutes before it was due to land in Pucallpa, it began to shake.

The incident comes one week after a Colombian airliner carrying French citizens from Martinique crashed in Venezuela, killing all 160 on board.


Gunmen stick up a toll station and end up shooting guard who drops by
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Robbers gunned down a guard supervisor early Tuesday at the toll station at Búfalo de Limón.

The guard, identified by the last name of Rivera, arrived on the scene with his motorcycle after two men had held up and tied up two guards who were
working at the toll station, agents said. The time was about 3:15 a.m. When the armed superviser arrived, the bandits came out of the toll structure and shot him at least nine times, agents said. He was 31.

The criminals took the motorcycles and the supervisor's handgun. All three guards were working for a private firm.


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