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(506) 2223-1327        Published Wednesday, Dec. 3, 2008,  in Vol. 8, No. 240       E-mail us
Jo Stuart
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Technology being derailed as crime-fighting tool
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

You are at the casino Friday night, and you have had a little run of bad luck. But you know the wheel is turning in your direction. You just need a little more cash.

Or you are at the bar and you meet your old college roommate and the talk turns to all night gab sessions and large quantities of beer. But you are low on cash.

Or maybe you are at the dance club, and you meet the love of your life. The perfect mate. But you want to buy flowers, rent a taxi and watch the sun come up over the Escazú mountains. You need to tap the bank account.

Sorry, you are out of luck if you are a Banco Nacional customer. A quick trip to the automatic teller will not do you any good late Friday night because the bank is taking its ATM machines off line to comply with a request by the security minister.

Banco Nacional, despite full-time advertising and promotional employees, likes to surprise its customers. Instead it was the ministry that said Tuesday that the bank will be closing down its automatic teller network at 10 p.m. Friday and every day afterwards until 5 a.m. the next morning.

The idea is to avoid what law enforcement officers call the paseo millonario in which bandits take victims to the teller machines and force them to withdraw cash at gunpoint.

Rather than catching the crooks, Janina del Vecchio, the security minister, has called on the banks to freeze the machines, thereby forcing the bandits to hold their victims hostage several hours longer.

This is one of the ministry's solutions to the increase in crime at the holiday season when a lot of money is on the street. The minister expressed her thanks to Banco Nacional Tuesday.

The Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública said Nov. 25 that the minister was urging this course of action. Other banks
atm machine

are expected to follow the example of Banco Nacional. Closing down the network is cheaper than providing guards at the machines, which are spread all over the country.

The minister is working with the Comisión de Seguridad Bancaria, a bankers' organization.

Banco Nacional did come out with a press release two weeks ago in which they discounted the myth that punching in an account's personal identification number backwards at the teller machine will summon the police. The idea has gained currency via the Internet, but the machines do not work that way.

Although such a panic code has been patented in the United States, even banks there have been reluctant to institute the system. And in Costa Rica the police may never arrive.

Anyway, the casino always wins, so Ms. Vecchio will be saving a lot of gamblers money. And drinking lots of beer late at night is what got you into trouble during university anyway.

As to the perfect mate, if she is perfect, she'll settle for coffee at Chelles instead of flowers and an expensive sunrise.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Dec. 3, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 240

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Arias talking free trade
with Singapore officials

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President Óscar Arias Sánchez and his traveling delegation were in Singapore Tuesday where he received general agreement that the Asian country would like to explore a free trade treaty with Costa Rica, according to Casa Presidencial.

With Arias are Roberto Gallardo, minister of Planificación, and Bruno Stagno, the foreign minister.

A key goal of the Arias administration is to broaden the Costa Rican economy. The country now is the sixth largest foreign market for Singapore with 2007 exports from here at 247.2 million, according to Casa Presidencial.

Arias met with Hsien Loong, Singapore's prime minister, and Sellapan Rama Nathan, the country's president.

Singapore is a manufacturing powerhouse with about $30,000 in annual per capital income.

Bandit kills woman, 41,
who used pepper spray

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A bandit shot and killed the wife of a lottery vendor in Alajuelita on Monday night after she tried to pepper spray an assailant.

The woman, Ana Tenorio Quesada, 41, was traveling with her husband by bus to their home, located at 11 de Abril in Concepción Abajo de Alajuelia, said the Fuerza Pública. After getting off the bus at 6:30 p.m., they were confronted by a man traveling on a motorbike, who threatened them with a handgun. He demanded that the husband hand over the lottery tickets that he carried with him.

When Ms. Tenorio attempted to pepper spray the robber in the face, he shot her in the right side of the chest. After the shooting, he sped away and picked up another man who appeared to be waiting for him nearby.  Ms. Tenorio died late Monday night at the Hospital San Juan de Dios.

Disability benefits assured
for foreigners working here

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Foreigners, including those residing illegally in Costa Rica, have the right to receive disability benefits if they are injured due to a work-related accident, the Sala IV constitutional court has ruled.

Currently, immigrants have the right to disability benefits if they are still paying for health insurance through their employer's health plan, said Diego Coto, a spokesperson at the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social. This is regardless of whether immigrants possess legal status or not.

In order to receive disability benefits, foreigners must be able to provide proof that they are paying for health insurance through their employer, as well as valid identification, such as a passport, added Coto.

The constitutional court said that denying benefits to immigrants injured in work-related accidents was denying their basic rights to social security and would cause their living situation to deteriorate.

The ruling came as the result of a case where an immigrant, identified by the last name Gutiérrez Reyes, sued the Instituto Nacional de Seguros for denying him disability benefits after he received a head injury in a work-related accident.

Digicel begins operations
in neighboring Panamá

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Digicel, the largest telecommunications operator in the Caribbean and recent entrant to the Central American market, Tuesday launched operations in Panamá. The country is its third Central American market and 31st market worldwide. With an investment of $350 million, Digicel now offers mobile telecommunication services across Central America, with operations to date in El Salvador, Honduras and Panamá.

According to the Panamá ministry of economy and finance, the Panamanian economy is expected to grow 7.5 percent by 2009. With a population of 3.4 million, mobile penetration is currently at approximately 71 percent. Digicel said it expects to offer service for the first time to many communities in Panama.

Digicel won a competitive bid process for a license to operate a GSM mobile network in Panama in May 2008.  The company said it employs 300 people directly in its Panamanian operations

Money and sweet products
are the haul of two bandits

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two robbers must have been seeking to satisfy their sweet tooth, after they stole nearly half a million colons worth of milk and candy from a small grocery in Barrio México Monday.

According to the Fuerza Pública, drivers of two delivery trucks loaded with dairy products and candy were making deliveries at a corner store when they were held up by two masked men armed with handguns. The bandits threatened the store owner, who proceeded to give the two thieves about a million colons from the store registry.

The robbers also stole money from the truck drivers, and then made off with about half a million colons worth of milk and candy.

The case is currently being investigated by agents from the Judicial Investigating Organization.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Dec. 3, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 240

Rodrigo Arias says intelligence agency will be revamped
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The minister of the Presidencia said Tuesday that the time has come to put what has been known as the nation's secret police under clear controls.

The minister, Rodrigo Arias Sánchez, brother to the president, spoke after a meeting at which he sought and received the resignation of the director of the agency, the  Dirección de Inteligencia y Seguridad Nacional.

The director, Roberto Solórzano Sanabria, was reported to be on vacation in the United States when investigators nabbed his No. 2 employee, who was serving as acting director. The acting director,  Roberto Guillen Solano, is accused of using agency computers and electronic contacts to further a long-running check fraud scheme.

In his resignation letter, which was released by Casa Presidencial, Solórzano admitted that there was not sufficient control over the access to the electronic data bases investigators claim that Guillen used to target wealthy bank customers for the check fraud ring.

Solórzano said he was profoundly mortified and that his health, already weakened by the death of his son, also was affected by the scandal.

Rodrigo Arias already had placed a vice security minister,  José Torres, in charge of the agency, and he will remain in that job, Casa Presidencial said.
Rodrigo Arias said that the central government will prepare to reform the law that regulates the Dirección de Inteligencia y Seguridad and clearly specify the controls and the jurisdiction. He said Costa Rica would seek the collaboration of governments of Chile and Colombia to develop a model adapted to the Costa Rican context.
Solórzano served as director since May 2006.  These years have not been an easy period for Costa Rica, he pointed out in his letter. Although charged with the intelligence collecting and security of the country, the agency reports directly to the minister of the Presidencia and considers its first duty the protection of the chief executive.

Solórzano also listed a litany of other challenges the agency has faced: the battle against drugs, organized crime, weapons trafficking and trafficking of persons and other manifestations of criminality.

The agency also serves as the local representative of the International Police Agency, INTERPOL. Its agents also are supposed to keep an eye on would-be terrorists, assassins, drug traffickers, Asian tongs, international spies, and Colombian revolutionaries.

During the last 10 years, Costa Rica has become a haven for Colombia drug smugglers, terrorists and all sorts of international crooks.

The Dirección de Inteligencia y Seguridad has not been particularly visible in countering any of these threats. Its INTERPOL department continues to produce a steady stream of wanted foreigners.

It was the Movimiento Libertario in the Asamblea Legislativa that quickly called for reorganization of the agency after news of the scandal broke. Calling the agency a secret police, the Libertarios issued a press statement Nov. 24 that also called for turning over the files of the Dirección de Inteligencia y Seguridad to the Judicial Investigating Organization to see if any laws have been broken.

The statement suggested that illegal wiretapping might have taken place. The Dirección de Inteligencia y Seguridad has no oversight, the statement said.

Suspected child molester carries $100,000 FBI reward
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Expats who are struggling with the financial crisis might want to meet Edward Eugene Harper, a man with a $100,000 price on his head.

The man, formerly a truck driver and ranch hand, is wanted to face allegations of sex crimes against a 3 year old and an 8 year old 14 years ago. He has been on the run so long that the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation put him on its 10-most-wanted list.

Harper, now 62, was arrested in Mississippi in 1994 but then skipped bail. The FBI has posted the reward. They also released photos, including a 1994 one that is aged artificially.

Harper is said to consider himself a member of the extremist group Montana Freemen, and he has family ties in Arkansas. He may go by the names Eddie Eugene Trimue, Eddie Harper, Ed Harmon, or Edward Trimue, the FBI said.

“What’s disturbing about this case,” said Ryan Arton,  an FBI agent in Jackson, Mississippi, who has followed leads on Harper around the globe, “is how he has been able to lay so low for 14 years, even after his case was featured on national TV shows like Oprah.”

“Harper deserves to be found and returned to DeSoto County, Mississippi, so that justice can be served,” Arton added.

If Harper is not dead, it is clear that he received support and aid. Harper joins Osama bin Laden on the most-wanted list. Although those who skirt the law themselves frequently are prejudiced against informers, the general opinion among this group is that child molesters should receive no protection.

The FBI also has released a new Internet widget carrying the photos and names of the most-wanted individuals. A.M. Costa Rica will publish this widget from time to time.
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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Dec. 3, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 240

The road from San Ramón to the tourist towns of La Fortuna and Arenal is closed due to rain and mudslide damage at Catarata, which is approximately 30 kms north of San Ramon. The roadway has been washed away for about a kilometer, and earth moving crews are working to repair the damages.
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Special to A.M. Costa Rica from GringoBob

New cold front brings rain and stalls recovery efforts
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Rain generated by another cold front shut down recovery efforts on the Caribbean coast and in the northern zone Tuesday.

The rain was enough to prompt new flooding in Guácimo where shelters were opened in La Lucha with 40 persons and in the community hall of Los Ángeles with 37. Elsewhere the Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias said that 91 persons were remaining in a shelter in Santa Rosa, also Guácimo, where they have been since last week.

There still are about 1,300 persons who cannot yet return to their homes. Most of these are in the Cantón de Talamanca on the south Caribbean coast.

An automatic weather station in Manzanillo registered 42.8 mm. (1.69 inches) of rain since 7 a.m. Tuesday. The heaviest rains were around noon, and parts of Limón centro were flooded. By comparison San José only got 7.7 mms. or about .3 inches.
The emergency commission still was worried about the cold front, which is moving from northwest to southeast across the North American continent and Central America. The front had not moved fully over Costa Rica. The commission placed the most significant part at the Nicaraguan-Costa Rican border.

Heavy rains were expected today in the northern zone and along the Caribbean coast. There will be some rain in the Central Valley, too, the Instituto Meteorológico Nacional said. Conditions on the Pacific coast will be about the same as Tuesday with hardly any measurable rain, the institute said.

The commission also warned of low temperatures in the 14 to 16 C. (57 to 61 F.) range and winds from 40 to 70 kph (24 to 44 mph). The commission is maintaining various degrees of alerts on the Caribbean and the Central Valley.

With the lull Tuesday, the commission began to recharge storage facilities that had been depleted by the emergency. Some 2,500 blankets and 2,500 sponge mattresses were put away for the next emergency, the commission said.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Dec. 3, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 240

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 week day.

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.

Telethon this weekend
seeks nearly $1 million

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Volunteers will be trying to raise nearly $1 million with the 2008 Teletón that takes place Friday and Saturday at the Palacio de los Deportes in Heredia. The event will be televised widely.

The Club Activo 20-30, the sponsor, said that the beneficiary of the telethon this year would be the Unidad de Cuidado Integral del Niño Quemado del Hospital Nacional de Niños, the burned children's unit. The equipment purchased will end up in the Hospital de las Sonrisas, which is supposed to be built by 2012.

As in other years, the telethon is getting a lot of help from the business community. Big Cola, for example, will be donating 5 percent of its sales during the weekend. Banco Nacional will have offices open during the 27 hours of the telethon all over the country to accept donations. The Megasuper chain will also serve as a collection point, and the Cafetería y Restaurante Spoon will make a donation based on products sold.

As with other telethons, including the Jerry Lewis Telethon that takes place in the United States on Labor Day, musical and variety acts will perform and the public can attend.
Our reader's opinion

Vehicle misconceptions
can cause expats problems

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

We recently returned to live permanently in Costa Rica.  In researching our return move, I discovered several changes plus incorrect information on various Web sites.
We shipped our U.S. car and made a serious error that caused the car to be impounded.  So let me tell you what we have learned so others do not make the same mistake.

1.  It is NOT true that expats now only need to leave the country for one day or simply cross a border as one Web site claims.  We must leave for three days to renew our visas.

2.  When traveling in a foreign registered car it is absolutely IMPERATIVE that you carry original documents of import and visa.  The police seized our car because I had a copy of one document rather than the original.  I spent four days getting our car out of aduana jail in Paso Canoas.

3.  It is not true that your car can leave the country after 90 days (one time) to renew its visa.  They changed the law.  Once you take your car out it MUST remain out for 90 days before it can return and a new visa is issued.

In our situation, we paid the import taxes to release the car from customs because we have our permanent home in Costa Rica.
Ken Beedle

Jo Stuart
Real Estate
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