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(506) 223-1327               San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Aug. 30, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 172            E-mail us   
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dramatic jacó arrest
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Agents hold U.S. fugitive at gunpoint before getting him out of the vehicle and into handcuffs
Dramatic Jacó arrest nets armed fugitive from U.S.
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A dramatic arrest of a man identified as a U.S. fugitive took place Wednesday on the public right-of-way at Playa Herradura near Jacó.

Detained was a man sought in Alabama for skipping out on house arrest, officials said.

The arrest was made by the Dirección de Inteligencia y Seguridad, the local repesentative of the International Police Agency, the Policía Especial de Migración and the Policía de Turismo of the Fuerza Pública.

The detainee was identified as Edmund Hudmond Smith, 41, who was being sought by the Mobile County, Alabama, Sheriff's Office.

According to officials here, Smith had been
sentenced to 90 days in jail for illegal possession of a firearm but was allowed to serve his sentence at home because he suffered from a foot infection stemming from diabetes. He was being monitored by an electronic device but he disabled the monitor and skipped out in June, officials said.

The arrest took place shortly before noon about 2 kilometers (1.25 miles) from Playa Herradura when the man was driving a Ford Explorer. Agents with drawn guns surrounded the vehicle. They said they found a loaded .45-caliber pistol on the passenger seat of the vehicle.

Smith was turned over to the Dirección General de Migración for possible deportation. The arrest came because the U.S. Marshal's Service told Interpol agents here that Smith might be in the country. The Press Register newspaper of Mobile said that he faces a new escape charge and theft charge there.


U.S. firm gets $20 million contract to modernize tax collecting here
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A Virginia firm says it has won a $20 million contract to modernize the tax-collecting system here in Costa Rica. The firm is BearingPoint, Inc.

A spokesman for the firm said that it is a management and technology consulting business.

The company will install SAP software and customize it for use in Costa Rica. The Ministerio de Hacienda and Tributación, its tax collecting agency, will be involved in the project.

SAP AG, a German firm with a U.S. subsidiary, has more than 10 million users at 30,000 installations around the world, that company said.

The project is scheduled to take two years. The new system is anticipated to allow Tributación to improve revenue flow through more efficient collection of taxes, help reduce the amount of tax fraud and allow Costa Rican citizens to access their
tax records electronically, BearingPoint said in a news release.

Steve Lunceford, the global communications director for the firm, said that initially about a dozen employees will come to Costa Rica next month. He said his company would not be involved directly in installing the hardware of a computer system but that it would make sure that the system works.

BearingPoint, a New York Stock Exchange-listed company, is one of the world's largest providers of management and technology consulting services to companies and government organizations in 60 countries worldwide, it said. Based in McLean, Virginia, the firm has more than 17,000 employees focusing on the public services, financial services and commercial services industries.

Tributación is trying to improve collection and dispense with the notion that paying taxes is voluntary in Costa Rica.


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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Aug. 30, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 172

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Caja to get windfall of funds
from tardy government


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The central government reached an agreement Wednesday to pay the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social some 185 billion colons, some of which it has owed since 1994. That's $356 million.

The money represents the required employer payments based on the individual salaries. Private companies have to pay the money every month under possible penalty of going to jail.

Rodrigo Arias Sánchez, minister of the Presidencia, said that the payment is a sign that the central government supports the Caja and other institutions emblematic of Costa Rica. Those who oppose the free trade treaty with the U.S. that the administration supports say that the trade agreement would destroy these institutions.

The Caja is the institution that provides health care to employees and also collects money for pensions.  Eduardo Doryan Garrón, executive president of the Caja, said that most of the money was owed for health care although some 13 billion colons ($25 million) would go to pensions.

Doryan Garrón said that the money would go, in part, to opening some 150 local clinics, known as Equipos Básicos de Atención Integral de Salud. Another project is a surgery tower for Hospital San Juan de Dios.

Other purchases planned include two more linear accelerators to treat cancer patients, a magnetic resonance device, 390 new X-ray devices, some 50 ultrasound machines and 370 vehicles.

The agreement is being supervised by the Ministerio de Hacienda or the financial ministry of the country. The money will be delivered in partial payments over several years, said Casa Presidencial.


Slow environmental agency
will get a reorganization


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Costa Rican environmental protection agency is going to get a makeover.

The organization is the Secretaría Técnica Ambiental, known by its initials SETENA. It is an agency of the Ministerio de Ambiente y Energía.

The agency is widely identified as a bottleneck for any kind of development or project.

Jorge Woodbridge, vice minister of Economía, Industria y Comercio, presented a reorganization plan Wednesday to fellow ministers. He said that the agency now has 800 files pending and that the goal of the plan would be to clear these projects by May 2008.

Among other actions, the reorganization would create electronic files for each application. Most projects in Costa Rica require a review by SETENA. The idea is to simplify and speed up decisions.


Supporters of turtles seek
expropriation of park land


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An environmental network has directed a letter and a petition to President Óscar Arias Sánchez urging him to expropriate land that is part of the Parque Nacional Marino las Baulas de Guanacaste. This is a prime breeding ground for endangered leatherback turtles.

The network, the Red Nacional para la Conservación de Tortugas Marinas de Costa Rica, said the petition had some 7.685 names.

The land in question is a strip 75 meters (246 feet) wide and 3 kilometers long. It is 46.6 hectares or about 115 acres.

Although the perimeter of the park has been well known, some of the land inside remained in private hands. Now this land is being developed. The network said that those who built here should not be rewarded for building on park land.


Pianists, juvenile orchestra
plan fundraiser for Friday


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Lorin Hollander, a noted New York pianist, will play with and direct the Orquesta Sinfónica Juvenil Friday at 8 p.m. in the Teatro Nacional.

The event is a kickoff to a fund-raising program for the Sistema Nacional de Educación Musical. The Ministerio de Cultura, Juventud y Deportes wants to put some 21 music schools at key points around the country.

The concert, estimated at two hours, will include George Gershwin's “Rhapsody in Blue” with Hollander on the piano. That piece will be directed by Marvin Araya, who usually leads the symphony. In all there are seven major pieces planned.


Ministers from all over visiting

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Ministers of the presidency or those with equivalent jobs from all over the Spanish-and Portuguese-speaking world are meeting through Friday at the Hotel La Condesa, en San Rafael de Heredia to lay the groundwork for a presidential summit November in Chile.

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Tamarindo faces loss of its association-supported lifeguards
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Lifeguards who protect swimmers in Tamarindo have been given two weeks notice because the association supporting the program has run out of money, the organization said Wednesday.

Said a release from the Asociación Pro Mejoras de Playa Tamarindo:

“For the past several months, the association has been struggling to pay the nearly $6,000 per month that the program demands and which represents 60 percent — 70 percent of the monthly budget.  Efforts have been made to enlist the help of area hotels that benefit from the program to no avail.”
Since the inception of the lifeguard program, there has been only one daytime drowning on Tamarindo beach, said the organization.  The lifeguards are responsible for several saves a day and on average, 200 per month, by pulling swimmers from the water or warning them of rocks and strong currents, it added. 

Other nearby beaches on the Pacific coast of Guanacaste that do not have lifeguard protection are scenes of drownings, the group added. Despite the beauty of Costa Rica's beaches, some areas have strong undertows that even a strong swimmer cannot beat.

The association also said it is looking into other cost saving measures, such as finding a cheaper office and cutting personnel costs. 


Dawn raids net 10 suspects in credit card cloning fraud
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Law enforcement agents in dawn raids rounded up 10 persons who are suspects in cloning credit cards and then going on spending sprees.

The Poder Judicial said the case was in the hands of the  Fiscalía de Fraudes. The individuals were identified by the last names of Monge Molina, Viales Marín, Morales Vargas, Mercado Pérez, Ibarra Guerrero, Flemón Fuentes, García Bonilla, Baltodano Camacho, Mora Vargas and González Paez.

Most of the suspects worked in eating establishments where customers would pay their bills with credit cards, always a dangerous practice in Costa Rica. The locations were in San
Pedro, Curridabat, San Francisco de Dos Rios and Tibás.

The individuals are accused of using the information from the cards to create identical pieces of plastic that were then used to purchase items, mostly electronics, said officials.

The Judicial Investigating Organization, prosecutors and judges participated in some 13 raids starting about 6 a.m.

The Judicial Investigating Organization said that there were some 20 complaints for credit card fraud and that the amount involved might be greater than 27 million colons or about $52,000.

Officials said that this particular wave of card cloning started in January.


Break in main Internet cable in Cartago results in a S L O W day of service
By José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff


A backhoe is being blamed for cutting a major fiber optic cable that moves Internet signals to and from servers in Costa Rica. The break was in Concabas de Cartago, and it caused Internet service to slow to a crawl after 7 a.m. Wednesday.

The cable runs from San José to submarine cables in the Caribbean that bring and take the signals to and from the rest of the world.
Herbert Durán, a spokesman for the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, the telecommunications monopoly, said Wednesday afternoon that he expected the rupture in the cable to be fixed by early evening.

Internet service did improve by that time.

The services of Radiográfica Costarricense S.A., the institute subsidiary, also were affected.

For some reason even local connections suffered, as did access to mail servers.


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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Aug. 30, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 172


Bob Marley's latest honor prompts remembrance of his life
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Reggae star Bob Marley who died of cancer in 1981 received many accolades during his lifetime and after his death. One of these is the choice of his 1977 album “Exodus” as the album of the century by TIME magazine.

“Exodus” was recorded in London and released in the summer of 1977. Bob Marley and his band, the Wailers, had left their native Jamaica after he was injured in an attempt on his life in December 1976.

The attack took place against the backdrop of widespread political violence between supporters of Jamaica's two major political parties. In a bid to pacify the factions, Marley offered to stage a free concert, which he called "Smile, Jamaica." He was shot just two days before the concert.

Soon after, Marley left for London and started working on “Exodus.”

Vivien Goldman is a New York-based English journalist who was Marley's publicist at Island Records. She has written “The Book of Exodus: The Making of Bob Marley and The Wailers' Album of the Century.”

Goldman said there were many other serious contenders for the honor, but feels that Exodus was a deserving choice.

"I think there was a certain perfection to 'Exodus,' there is a certain balance to it; it very much reflects a cycle of Bob's life at that time," she explained. " When you listen to the whole of the Exodus album in its real order, as opposed to on an iPod, you know jumping around, you see it really takes you on a journey that is very inspiring.

"Because on the first side you have a lot of really confrontational songs like, 'The Heathen' and 'Guiltiness' songs in which Bob is unflinching looking at how brutal people can be to one another, how ruthless and evil and how united we can stand up against it," Goldman noted. "And then on the second side it shows you how nice life can be when it's easier, you have the love songs and then you have songs like 'Three Little Birds' and 'One Love,' all songs that make you tap into just the joy of being alive and that is the feeling that can lead you through the darkest times, knowing that the simple joy of three little birds can really bring a you smile and lift your spirits."

Goldman says what makes the choice of “Exodus” remarkable is the fact that Marley overcame a very humble background and grew into what many see as a voice of the oppressed.

"He came from such a materially deprived environment and he was mixed and wherever he went he was the outsider," she explains. "In Trenchtown they mocked him for being too light, other areas of society they mocked him for being too dark, and he had to fight for everything. That is why he is such a messenger in a way because his talent and his vision and his consciousness and his scope were so vast it is the kind of thing you almost cannot be taught in schools in a way it is just something really within.

"He just struck a chord," Goldman continues. "He has become a shamanic figure who transcended not only his race, his class, his island, his musical genre to become just one of those people that sort of zooms through our society every now and again to wake us up and make us think "

Jamaican-born reggae singer Delroy Washington, who
Bob Marley
Bob Marley

now lives in London, knew Marley in Trenchtown, the tough Kingston ghetto where they grew up. Washington says even then Marley was clearly destined for greatness.

"He was a really good person back in the day, full of ideas, really progressive, knew far much more than you would expect the average Jamaican young person to know, he was really very well informed about a lot of different things," recalled Washington. "He had a glow about him, I do not want to sound mystical, but it is true. He looked golden. I remember that about Bob different from any artist in Jamaica. He looked like he was born to do something. He did not look like he was ordinary."

Marley wore his hair in dreadlocks as a sign he belonged to the Rastafarian religious movement that accepts deceased former Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie as God incarnate. He also was a proponent of marijuana use and smoked the weed extensively. His opinion on marijuna frequently showed up in his music.

Washington sees the choice of Exodus by TIME magazine and other honors as just reward for Marley, who along with his fellow Rastafarians was looked down upon by the Jamaican establishment and treated with condescending curiosity by the western main stream.

"It is like the stone that the builders refused has now become the head of the corner. Bob Marley's stamp on Jamaican letters and stuff like that, nothing short of a miracle," he said.

Marley's honors include induction into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame and the U.N. Peace Medal of the Third World.

Earlier this month, the Anglican Church in Jamaica announced it was adding his song “One Love/People Get Ready” into its hymnbook. A spokesman for the church defended the action by saying Marley may have been anti-church, but he was never anti-God.


Pinochet's intelligence chief gets life for role in murder of 12 youths in 1987
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Chile's supreme court has sentenced a former general to life in prison for human rights abuses during the Pinochet era.

The court issued the life sentence Tuesday for retired Gen. Hugo Salas Wenzel for his role in the murder of 12 youths in mid-June of 1987. The case was known as "Operation Albania."

The court also handed down several other prison sentences in human rights cases from the Pinochet era.

Wenzel was the former head of Chile's National
Intelligence Center. The center is suspected of backing the killings of the youths, who were members of the Manuel Rodríguez Patriotic Front.

The Chilean government initially said the youths were killed in clashes with security agents, but a later investigation revealed they were murdered after being arrested.

Gen. Agusto Pinochet's government ruled from 1973 until 1990. Thousands of suspected leftist sympathizers disappeared or were killed during that period. Pinochet died last December leaving many incomplete court cases that had sought to bring him to justice.


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U.S. women's soccer team a mixture of veterans, newcomers
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Sixteen teams are preparing to compete next month in the Women's World Cup soccer tournament in China.  One of them is the United States, which has been playing on home soil in a so-called "Send-Off Series" of friendly matches.  The team is ranked No. 1 in the world.

The U.S. women's soccer program hit its stride in 1999 when it hosted and won the Women's World Cup.  The dramatic shootout victory over China in the final at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, gave the women's game unprecedented exposure.

Ahead of this year's World Cup tournament, the U.S. team has again worked its way to the top of the world rankings. 

Only four players remain from the 1999 team, including 36-year-old captain Kristine Lilly, and victory this time will rest with several new faces.

The U.S. women are coached by Greg Ryan.  He says this team is strong because of the great relationship between the veteran players and the younger ones.

"Once we step onto the field, our veterans look across at the young ones and say, 'Hey, that player can be just as good as me today.'  And so it is a real respect that has grown.  And the young players had to earn that.  And the veteran players had to help them attain that.  It could not be any better than it is,” he said.
Ms. Lilly, a forward, has played in every Women's World Cup since the quadrennial event began in 1991.  She credits much of her longevity on the field to the energy she gets  from her newer teammates:

"I get a lot of momentum from them,” she says, “because they have this look in their eye of, 'Oh, my God, here I am.'  You know, I have been around the block a little bit, so I probably do not have the same look.  But they remind me of how great this team is."

One of the newcomers to the U.S. team is 21-year-old defender Stephanie Lopez.  The high standards of the veterans have motivated her to play at their level.

"I definitely feel honored to be on the same team with them and playing on the field with them,” says Lopez. ”And it has been an amazing year and a half since I have been playing with them.  Just to get to know them and really feel like I am their teammate, that I can be out there with them.  And I can make an impact and help them out there on the field."

Coach Ryan has used more than 60 players during his two-year tenure.  In the World Cup, the United States will face very different opponents in North Korea, Sweden and Nigeria.  Ryan plans to use his full roster to create different starting lineups for each game.

The United States begins its campaign on Sept. 11 with a difficult Group-B encounter with North Korea in Chengdu.

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