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(506) 2223-1327              Published Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2009,  in Vol. 9, No. 247            E-mail us
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Canada would like to amplify its free trade treaty
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Canada would like to amplify its free trade treaty with Costa Rica to include access to telecommunications and insurance here, and Costa Rica would like Canada to issue visas here to Ticos instead of shipping the documents to Guatemala.

These were the major points when Michaëlle Jean, the Canadian governor general, met with President Óscar Arias Sánchez Monday.

Costa Rica also would like to increase Canadian tourism. Both Arias and later the governor general in her speech to the Asamblea Legislativa estimated that some 100,000 Canadians come to Costa Rica each year. She estimated that 10,000 Canadians live here.

Both numbers are optimistic, although there have been few current numbers on tourism from the Arias administration.

It was Bruno Stagno, the foreign minister, who mentioned the need for the Canadian Embassy here to issue visas. He suggested that a consulate be opened here.

The U.S.-Central American free trade treaty is more liberal than the one negotiated earlier by Canada that went into force in November 2002. U.S. firms can become involved in the lucrative insurance and telecommunications markets under terms of the Central American treaty.

Meanwhile, Arias lobbied for more airline flights to double or triple the number of Canadian tourists who come here.

The governor general is the representative of Queen Elizabeth II in Canada. She holds a mostly ceremonial post, but has influence.

In her talk to lawmakers, the governor general called Costa Rica "one of the most extensive, daring experiments. An experiment that started as a gamble and consists of betting on peace in a highly militarized region, and inextricably linking this path towards peace to democratization and environmental protection."

She said Canada shares this same conviction and a
Governor general and Arias
Photo courtesy of the governor general
Michaëlle Jean and Óscar Arias greeted by school children as part of the official welcome.

joint commitment to increase security, improve prosperity and promote democratic values across the entire hemisphere.

The governor general is a Caribbean immigrant to Canada, and she told lawmakers that she visited Limón and "witnessed the countless efforts being made by young people, women and men who want to fight social exclusion and its most dreaded results, like despair and crime."

The visit here is part of a series of state visits which included México and Guatemala.

The governor general arrived Saturday with her husband,  Jean-Daniel Lafond.


U.S. fugitive, kids traveled here in his motor home
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A man from the U.S. state of Delaware ripped off a bank for $249,000, abducted his three children and spent 20 months traveling in a motor home through Mexico, Panama, Costa Rica and Nicaragua.

The man, David Matusiewicz, 42, got 48 months in prison and a five-year supervised release term in federal court Thursday. The man and the children were the objects of an extensive police search.

Matusiewicz finally was detained in Nicaragua last March, and investigators said they found numerous false identification documents containing his and his children’s pictures – including false Social Security cards and false passports.

The U.S. Attorney's Office in Delaware said that the man had pleaded guilty to one count of bank fraud and one count of international parental, kids
abduction. The fraud charge stems from a $249,000 home equity line of credit the man obtained from WSFS Bank by forging the signature of his ex-wife, the mother of the children. Investigators said he quickly deposited the funds in a New Zealand bank.

Matusiewicz took his mother along on the extended Mexican and Central American vacation, investigators said.

“The court’s sentence of 48 months imprisonment recognizes the very serious nature of the defendant’s crimes," said U.S. Attorney David C. Weiss. "In defrauding WSFS Bank of nearly a quarter of a million dollars, the defendant caused significant financial harm to the bank and to his ex-wife. But by kidnapping his three children and in taking them across international  borders, the defendant did even more long-lasting damage — he robbed the children of 19 months of a normal, healthy childhood and exposed them to continuing psychological harm."


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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 247

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Security minister asserts
that crime is going down


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Arias administration is pointing to a decrease in the number of 2009 murders and in fewer home invasions and car thefts as an achievement.

The statistics came Monday from Janina del Vecchio, the minister of security, who gave the annual summary in the presence of President Óscar Arias Sánchez. She has been criticized for being a political choice with little background in law enforcement.

She said the numbers came from the Judicial Investigating Organization and were based on reports from January through November. Robberies in San José were down 4.9 percent and home invasions were down 8.8 percent, she said.

Ms. del Vecchio credited among other factors the success of the Tribunales de Flagrancia that have been instituted by the Poder Judicial. Criminals caught in the acts or nearly so sometimes are tried and sentenced within hours. The Poder Judicial is trying to put the concept into effect nationwide.

The Fuerza Pública and its dependency have confiscated 92,974 kilos of cocaine since the start of the Arias administration in May 2006, the agency said.

The security ministry conducted three sweeps of Limón province in 2009 which resulted in arrests and confiscation of weapons and drugs. The ministry credits these sweeps for reducing the murders there by 23 percent.

There are 40,000 more policemen on the force now. This was a campaign promise by Arias, and the budget of the ministry has gone from 62 billion colons to 124 billion proposed for 2010, about $219 million.

In addition, the administration has raised police base wages some 25 percent.

This is the last full year of the Arias administration. He leaves office in May. He is known to be troubled by the public perception of a rising crime rate.


Child protectors report
that hotline is getting calls


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Patronato Nacional reported Monday that it has received 800 calls on its 147 hotline that has resulted in exchanges with 142 youngsters under age 18 in 18 communities.

The hotline is supported by the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad in conjunction with World Vision.

The Patronato, the child protection agency, said that the service is designed to let youngsters know their rights and to clear up doubts about their sexuality.

The government agency also has a Web page, also in conjunction with World Vision where youngsters are alerted to their rights.

The Patronato said that 80 percent of the hotline calls are to seek information about services such as scholarships for school children. Just 3 percent could be characterized as complaints.


New defender of people
coming from legislature


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Lawmakers did not have to look far for a new defender of the public. The Partido Liberación Nacional will be promoting one of its own, Ofelia Taitelbaum, for the job when a secret vote is held today.

There is opposition from other parties, in part because some lawmakers do not feel that she would be an independent actor because she is tied too closely to the Óscar Arias Sánchez administration.

The lawmakers had open nomination for the job, which is supposed to head the Defensoría do los Habitantes, sort of an ombudsman to help people enmeshed in bureaucracy. There were 25 candidates, which were evaluated on a numerical scale.

The principal opponents of the government's candidate are the Partido Acción Ciudadana and Movimiento Libertario.



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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 247


U.S. State Department proposes raising Visa application fees
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The U.S. government is proposing a $9 increase in tourist and business visas.

The State Department has published a proposed rule in the Federal Register to do just that. In addition, the proposal contains a $19 increase for certain other visas.

The application fee for a visa now is $131. In Costa Rica that does not include a $14 fee assessed by a call center that sets the appointments.

The State Department said that the current fee did not cover the processing charge for non-immigrant visas.

"The new tiered fee structure was created to cover the higher unit costs for processing certain categories of non-immigrant visas that are more complicated and require more in-depth consideration than most other categories of
nonimmigrant visas," said the State Department in a release. "U.S. law requires the department to attempt to recover the cost of processing non-immigrant visas through the collection of the application fees. Because of ongoing process and security enhancements, the $131 fee set on Jan. 1, 2008 is lower than the current, actual cost of processing nonimmigrant visas."

Those who would pay the $150 fee are temporary workers and trainees, intracompany transferees, aliens with extraordinary ability, athletes, artists and entertainers, international cultural exchange visitors and religious occupations, the department said.

Potential wives and husbands of U.S., citizens would pay $350.

The department said it will not begin collecting the new proposed fees until it considers public comments and publishes a final rule.


National dance company seeking three male artists today
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Costa Rican dance company is looking for a few good men today.

The Compañía Nacional de Danza will hold open auditions for male ballet dancers in its search for three more artists to fill spots in the company.

The audition involves demonstrating movements at the bar, a contemporary dance and a three-minute session of
improvisation, said the dance company.

Three judges have been selected to evaluate candidates.

Those who can apply are professionals or advanced dancers between 18 and 35 years. If selected, they will work a regular 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. day and spend six months in training.

The tryouts are today for 9:30 a.m. to noon in the Central Nacional de la Cultura just east of Parque España.


Second suspect detained in murder of elderly Quepos man
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Agents have now detained a man in the murder of an elderly Quepos resident.

The man, identified by the last names of Fallas Pérez, has been remanded to jail for six months of preventative detention by a judge in the Juzgado Penal de Aguirre-Parrita, the Poder Judicial said. This is the case where the first suspect detained was a 14-year-old girl.

The victim, Antonio Barquero Quesada, 75, was found dead in his Barrio La Pascua de Quepos home Dec. 7. Death was
believed caused by asphyxiation. He was found by a granddaughter. He showed signs of having been beaten by a rock and had a cord around his neck. In addition to an undetermined amount of money, the man's shoes were taken.

The teen has been placed in two months of detention under the supervision of the Juzgado Penal Juvenil.

Investigators said at the time of the murder that the man had taken the girl into his home because she was living on the street. They also said they suspected a second person was involved in the murder.


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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 247


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U.N.'s Ban heads for Copenhagen with prestige on the line

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Since beginning his tenure as the world's top diplomat nearly three years ago, Ban Ki-moon has pressed the international community to take serious action to halt the effects of global warming. Now, with his prestige on the line, he heads to the Danish capital where difficult and complex climate talks are at risk of failing.

"Time is running out,” he told reporters. “There is no time left for posturing or blaming. Every country must do its part to seal a deal in Copenhagen."

The United Nations has already backed away from its original hope of getting a legally binding treaty this week and says success will be a serious agreement that will lead the way to a legally binding one next year.

Ban told reporters the choice is clear. "We can move toward a future of sustainable green growth, or we can continue down the road to ruin. We can act on climate change now, or we can leave it to our children and grandchildren — a debt that can never be paid. It will threaten the future of our planet and its people," said the secretary-general.

He appealed to the negotiators who are laying the groundwork for the summit, asking them to redouble their efforts in this final stretch before the 115 world leaders arrive later this week.

"If everything is left to the leaders to resolve at the last minute, we risk having a weak deal — or no deal at all,” he said. “And this would be a failure of potentially catastrophic consequence."

Ban said he believes there has been tangible progress on
key issues, including technology cooperation and financing. That includes an agreement by wealthy countries to provide $10 billion each year through 2012 to help developing countries adapt to and offset the impacts of climate change. But he said greater clarity is needed on a robust financing package for the middle and longer term.

Other key issues remain unresolved, including commitments from developed countries on how much they will cut their greenhouse gas emissions during the next 40 years, and whether nations can keep the planet's temperature from rising no more than 1.5 or two degrees Celsius.

Talks resumed at the United Nations summit in Copenhagen, Denmark, Monday after African nations briefly suspended negotiations over the future of the Kyoto Protocol, currently the only legally binding climate pact.

Many industrialized countries are hoping to merge the protocol and the outcome of the Copenhagen meeting, which entered its second and final week today, into a single agreement. However, their developing counterparts, among the least responsible for greenhouse gas emissions, want to extend the protocol past 2012, when its first commitment period ends, and hammer out a separate agreement this week in Copenhagen.

“I think this is not just an African concern,” Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, told reporters. “I think that the vast majority of the countries here want to see a continuation of the Kyoto Protocol.”

To this end, informal consultations kicked off in Copenhagen Mnday, he said, with the Kyoto Protocol topping the list of discussion topics.



Another State Department clerk admits passport snooping

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

A ninth individual pleaded guilty Friday to illegally accessing numerous confidential passport application files.

The U.S. Justice Department identified her as Debra Sue Brown, 47, of Oxon Hill, Maryland. She pleaded guilty in the District of Columbia to a one-count criminal information charging her with unauthorized computer access. Ms. Brown is scheduled to be sentenced on March 23.

According to court documents, Ms. Brown has worked full-time for the State Department since September 1995 as a file clerk and a file assistant in the Bureau of Consular Affairs, the Justice Department said. In pleading guilty, Ms. Brown admitted that she had access to official State Department computer databases in the regular course of her job, including the Passport Information Electronic Records System, which contains all imaged passport applications dating back to 1994. The imaged passport applications contain, among other things, a photograph of the passport applicant as well as certain personal
information including the applicant’s full name, date and place of birth, current address, telephone numbers, parent information, spouse’s name and emergency information.

These confidential files are protected by the Privacy Act of 1974, and access by State Department employees is strictly limited to official government duties, the Justice Department said.

Ms. Brown admitted that between March 25, 2005, and Feb. 7, 2008, she logged onto the database and repeatedly searched for and viewed the passport applications of more than 60 celebrities and their families, actors, comedians, professional athletes, musicians, other individuals identified in the press, and personal friends and acquaintances. Ms. Brown admitted that she had no official government reason to access and view these passport applications, but that her sole purpose in accessing and viewing these passport applications was idle curiosity, said the Justice Department.

Ms. Brown is the ninth current or former State Department employee or contractor to plead guilty in this continuing investigation.


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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 247

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U.N. official wants more
Internet language diversity


Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Multilingualism must be fostered on the Internet to help bridge the digital divide, and the United Nations stands in the forefront of those seeking to promote linguistic diversity in the interests of greater political, economic and cultural access for all, a top U.N. official said Monday.

“Creating content in local languages is, and will be, as important as enabling connectivity in order to be able to reach and engage peoples worldwide, whether on economic, political, or scientific initiatives,” said Kiyo Akasaka. He is under-secretary general for communications and public information. He was speaking at the Second Global Seminar on Linguistic Diversity, Globalization and Development in São Paulo, Brazil.

Akasaka cited statistics showing that 96 per cent of the world’s nearly 7,000 languages are spoken by a mere 4 per cent of the world’s population, with “a staggering 50 per cent” expected to die out within a few generations because they are not represented in government, education and the media.

“But the statistic that is particularly relevant for our discussion is this: only about 35 per cent of all Internet users are native English speakers. Yet English Web sites dominate the Internet, with almost 70 per cent of all sites readable only in English,” he said.

“This has obvious implications for those who can, and cannot, take advantage of this online world,” he added, noting that about two-thirds of English-language sites are devoted to e-commerce and that e-commerce accounted for nearly $2.4 trillion in business worldwide in 2006. “It literally pays to speak English!”

He cited the crucial role played by the media not only in reporting on local and world events in multiple languages, but with their educational services, from quizzes to language instruction, on their online sites.

Media companies are on the front line of developing new ways to translate the Internet into different languages, real-time translation of Internet chats is on the horizon, thanks to better and faster translation tools, and new technology is helping to add captions to videos automatically, helping those who are hearing-impaired as well as those who do not speak the language of the video, he said. 

“Clearly, the media, through multilingual content and technology, must continue to expand and encourage the exchange of ideas, knowledge and culture – as it always has,” he declared.

Akasaka cited the U.N.’s own role in producing and disseminating multimedia news products and services in different languages: its Web site available in all six official U.N. languages: Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish.

“Governments, meanwhile, need to help raise awareness of the importance of generating information in local languages to encourage greater multilingual content and use,: he said. "They also can play a key role in passing laws to promote and protect languages,” he added.

“We know that there is a link between the preservation of languages, culture, and the protection of our biodiversity," he said. "Clearly, the efforts needed to preserve our biodiversity are no less urgent than those that are needed to protect endangered languages."

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 247


Latin American news
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Health ministry warns
about 4Life Research


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The health ministry has singled out for condemnation a multilevel marketing program that says it can improve a human's immune system.

The company is 4Life Research USA, LLC, which is believed to be starting sales efforts here.

The Salt Lake City, Utah,-based firm promotes something called transfer factors, defined as messenger molecules that teach immune cells what they ought to be doing. The company describes its approach as Transferceutica Science.

The Ministerio de Salud said that none of the products listed in the company's catalogue are registered with it.

Sales representatives attribute therapeutic properties, in some cases, miraculous, but none of these properties has been demonstrated before Costa Rican health authorities, the ministry said.

The statement added that the products might be damaging because they might cause a person with illness to substitute the company's treatment in place of approved medical care.

Meanwhile, 4Life President Steve Tew announced a new company sales growth record. In the midst of struggling economies around the world, 4Life global sales in November increased by 39 percent over November of 2008, he said in a release from the Salt Lake City office.

The company said it has offices in 15 countries and conducts business in more than 40 countries around the world.

Automatic teller emptied

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Crooks broke through a wall and then used a torch to get into the automatic teller machine at Banco Popular in the center of Alajuelita. The crime was discovered Sunday.

The Judicial Investigating Organization said that the crooks took about 14 million colons, about $25,000 at the current exchange rate.

The burglars also tried to open the bank safe but failed in their attempt, agents said. They seemed to have knowledge of the installation because they disconnected the alarm and broke through the wall of a hallway to get to the rear of the automatic teller.




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