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(506) 2223-1327        Published Thursday, Nov. 20, 2008,  in Vol. 8, No. 231       E-mail us
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Amnet says it is dropping its service in metro area
By José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
and the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Amnet, the cable television company, appears ready to surrender its franchise in the Municipalidad de San José rather than put its lines underground.

The company is distributing letters to subscribers saying that the firm can no longer continue providing service due to technical reasons related to putting the distribution lines underground.
 
The exact nature of the technical problems was not spelled out.

The letter bears the signature of Manuel Méndez Sánchez, the firm's financial manager.

The letter did not give a date when the company, which has its headquarters in La Sabana, will cut off service.

All this appears to be a surprise to the Compañía Nacional de Fuerza y Luz, the electric company. According to Rocio Pérez, a press spokesman for the electric firm, the cable companies are working to comply with the requirement that the lines go underground.

Fuerza y Luz embarked on a major project five years ago to bury the metropolitan district's electric lines, and its employees and contractors have done so. The problem is that cable and telephone lines  are carried on the same utility poles.

When the underground electric lines finally were
installed, mostly in the first half of 2005, additional outlets were provided for telephone and cable service. However, the phone company, the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, would have to run the lines alongside the electric cables and make the individual home connections.

Amnet and Cable Tica, the other San José cable television firm, would have to do likewise. Their lines also carry the Internet signals for computer subscribers.

The Fuerza y Luz press spokesperson said that the power company has been waiting for the other companies to put in their underground lines but that there has been no official communications. And there is no deadline for doing so although Fuerza y Luz would like to take down the poles in 2009, she said.

The legal department of Fuerza y Luz is studying the matter, the press spokesperson said.

Despite the letter, that was distributed Monday, no one at Amnet or Cable Tica has been available for comment for two days.

Last July Millicom International Cellular S.A. said it agreed to purchase Amnet for $510 million and said that Amnet has 350,000 corporate and residential accounts in Costa Rica, Honduras and El Salvador. The firm said both companies would need about nine months to complete the deal.

The decision to cut off service might be related to that transaction.


Stiles arrest

stiles borther two
Photos by Humberto Ballestero of the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Securidad Pública.
Two U.S. brothers with the last name of Siles are taken into custody.
U.S. citizens held in raids involving drugs by Internet
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two brothers, both identified as U.S. citizens, were among six persons detained Wednesday in police raids designed to eliminate a ring that sold restricted drugs without a prescription to U.S. customers via the Internet.

The brothers, who were detained when the Policía de Control de Drogas raided their home in Pozos de Santa Ana, have the last name of Siles, according to the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública.

Officials here said they were tipped off when U.S. authorities found an illegal drug shipment in Miami in February.

Also arrested were two Costa Rican men, both 28, who were alleged to be the leaders of the Internet pharmacy ring.

One, detained in San Pedro, was identified by the last names of Abarca Coto. The second, detained in San Jose's Barrio San Cayetano, was identified by the last names of García Sandoval.
Two Colombians were detained in a raid in Moravia. They were identified as a woman, 54, with the last names of Echeverri Osorio, and a man,
identified by the last names of García Osorio, who is 56. Agents said the pair ran the company's lucrative Web site and made trips to Guatemala to obtain the drugs that eventually were shipped to the States.

Agents said that the two U.S. citizens had the job of delivering the packages for shipment to various courier services.

The name of the company is Entracorp Radasi Internacional S.A.  Agents said that the company distributed Lorazepam and methylphenidate (known as Ritalin), Roche-2, Tafil, Oxa Forte, Duromine, Arcedol, Stilnox and other pharmaceuticals. Some if not all of these products are controlled by Costa Rican as well as U.S. law.

Agents here had been intercepting shipments since February.

Anti-drug police made arrests involving a similar Internet operation last December. U.S. citizens were detained in that operation, too.


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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Nov. 20, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 231

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Fraud agents raid office
at Inteligencia y Seguridad


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Poder Judical said Wednesday that investigators raided the offices of the Dirección de Inteligencia y Seguridad Nacional, the Costa Rican version of the F.B.I.

The communication was quick to point out that the investigation was against a member of the organization and not the organization itself.

The raid was conducted by the Fiscalía de Fraudes del Primer Circuito Judicial under the order of a judge.

One person was detained and was being questioned, the Poder Judicial said.

The office of the intelligence organization is in Sabana Este.
However, it was learned that an office in Casa Presidencial also was subject to a search warrant.

The case is believed to be related to check frauds and not related to national security. At least six other persons were being questioned in the case. The Poder Judicial did not release any names.

Tax for victims, witnesses
would be on bank paper


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A new tax, one that would be applied to notes, bonds and commercial paper, perhaps even checks, was floated Wednesday at a legislative committee hearing.

Lawmakers are struggling with how to finance a plan to protect witnesses and victims of crimes from those who would threaten or kill them to prevent their testimony.

José Luís Araya supported an idea. He is a vice minister of Hacienda, the budgeting agency of the state.

He suggested to the Comisión Permanente Especial de Seguridad Ciudadana that a tax be levied on all  títulos de valores denominated in foreign currency issued by the government, public banks and private banks. He said such a tax now exists for similar transactions denominated in colons.

He said the proposal would raise from 2.5 to 3 billion colons. That is between $4.5  and $5.4 million

What was meant by  títulos de valores was not made clear to the committee, but it could cover checks, notes, IOUs, and other commercial paper issued mainly in dollars.

Some force to flee homes
as cold front brings rain


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A total of 47 persons were reported to be in public shelters Wednesday after a cold front generated rain that hammered the Caribbean coast.

The Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias said that hit hard were the cantons of Siquirres, Matina and Limón centro. The community of Gochen was where residents fled their homes due to a rising river.

Also flooded were parts of La Esperanza, B Line, and Los Berros, the commission said. The rivers involved were the Matina and Chirripó. Some areas were said to be cut off.
The commission said it was maintaining a weather alert on the Caribbean coast and the northern zone.

Two waiters are implicated
 in massive credit card fraud


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two restaurant waiters have been sent to jail while the investigation continues over a string of credit card frauds.

The Poder Judicial said that the amount stolen could be as much as 300 million colons, about $544,000. The men were identified by the last names of  Vargas Romero and Calderón Cruz. The accusations come from Credomatic and five banks.

The men were arrested early Sunday by investigators who said they were getting information from the credit cards of those paying bills in the restaurants where they worked.  This practice is known as skimming.

False charges to local credit card customers began popping up around the world, including countries in Africa, South America and Europe. A judge sent the pair to preventative dentention for six months.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Nov. 20, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 231

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Ministerio Público will start tracking thefts of passports
By Elyssa Pachico
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Ministerio Público hopes it will soon be able to crack down on thieves who steal travel identity documents by using a new database that will track passport theft across the country,

“With a database, an analyst could look at the information and say, how strange, looks like in Guanacaste there's a high rate of robberies,” said Yorleny Matamoros, a lawyer at the office of technical consulting and international relations who is overseeing the establishment of the database. 

“Then the police would be better equipped to take the action necessary to address that problem,” she said.

“Right now we don't have that kind of information, because cases regarding passport theft are presented on an individual basis,” she added. “So we don't know whether some areas may be affected more than others.”

Costa Rica is notorious for passport thefts and robberies. The U.S. Embassy here has said it gets more reports of passport thefts than any other embassy, although other countries also have U.S. consulantes that receive some reports.

The Ministerio Público has asked all embassies in Costa Rica to submit the data they possess regarding instances of passport theft. The findings must be submitted following a strict format to allow for better, more accurate analysis.

“The idea behind this new system is giving uniformity to the data,” said Ms. Matamoros. “Many embassies are informed about these kinds of robberies, but when they submit information about it to the municipality, they all follow a different format. By having all the embassies coordinate, we hope we can create a better system.”

Ms. Matamoros said the Ministerio Público currently lacks information about how many passports are stolen
passport graphic

annually in Costa Rica because of the lack of a centralized database.

One of the main challenges in creating such a system, she said, is that people often report a stolen or lost passport to their embassy but not to the local police station. At the same time, she said, embassies have reported that some travelers were turned away from police stations after reporting their passport as lost rather than stolen. 

“The problem is that when people report that they've lost their passport, that they left it in the hotel room for a few hours, went to the beach, and then couldn't find it again when they came back, then there's no crime,” she said. The Fuerza Pública, Judicial Investigating Organization, and the Ministerio Público only track passports that are reported as stolen, not lost, she added.

She said her agency, the nation's independent prosecutorial arm of the courts, hopes that the majority of foreign embassies will submit data regarding passport theft by the end of November. Ms. Matamoros said it was unknown at this point whether the database would be analyzed for theft patterns every month, or whether such analysis would be done every three months.


Only light damage reported in wake of 6.2 magnitude quake
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An early Wednesday morning earthquake did not cause any major destruction in Costa Rica, although some damage was felt in Ciudad Neily.

There was one report of a man injured by a falling telephone pole, said an employee at the municipality of Ciudad Neily. The city's hospital also experienced some minor damage, while some roads were blocked by fallen trees. In Laurel de Corredores, there were also two reports of minor damage,

The quake, which occured at 12:12 a.m. and registered at a
magnitude of 6.2, was more heavily felt across the border from Costa Rica, reported Panama's national civil protection system. The Sistema Nacional de Protección Civil reported that a house where a family of five lived was destroyed, and another six houses experienced light damage in the Panamanian district of Barú.

The quake was also felt in the Panamanian districts of David, Puerto Armuelles, Bugaba, Boquerón and Tierras Altas, said a report issued by the civil protection system.
In Costa Rica, the quake was felt in San José, Zona Sur, Cartago, Turrialba, Siquirres, Heredia and Sarapiquí. The earthquake originated 12 kilometers to the north of Puerto Armuelles in Panamá, and had a depth of 25 kilometers.


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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Nov. 20, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 231



Driving examiners will require manual transmission vehicles
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Those who hope to pass a driving test now have to do so by using a vehicle with a manual transmission. The Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transporte said Wednesday that a decree has been published in the La Gaceta official newspaper prohibiting test-takers from using automatic transmission vehicles.

Only those who already have driving tests scheduled can show up with a vehicle with an automatic transmission, the ministry said.

Rosaura Montero, a vice minister, said that the decree was emitted because transport officials want to make sure that
new drivers are able, for example, to hold a vehicle on a hill by working the clutch and accelerator.
She said that many drivers have taken the exam using a vehicle with an automatic transmission and then went on the roads with a manual shift car.

The same rule goes into effect for motorcycles and similar vehicles, the vice minister said.

In addition the ministry will require those seeking bus, buseta and microbus licenses to take the driving test using that type of vehicle.

Between 30 and 35 percent of those who take the road test fail it each year, said the ministry.

The road test is also a source of corruption because some examiners condition the scores they award on the size of the unofficial contribution from those taking the test.


México arrrests senior police official on allegation he worked with traffickers
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Mexican authorities have arrested a senior police official for allegedly working with drug cartels.

The arrest Tuesday of Ricardo Gutiérrez Vargas, Mexico's representative to the International Police Agency, INTERPOL, was part of a probe into leaks of information to drug gangs.

Mexico has seen increasingly brutal drug-related violence, which has claimed thousands of lives.

In Tijuana, federal agents and military forces are temporarily replacing hundreds of police officers
responsible for patrolling the crime-ridden border town. Some 500 police officers were sent to training and will undergo background checks.

Earlier this month, the top officer of Mexico's federal police force, Gerardo Garay, stepped down following allegations senior officers had helped drug traffickers.

President Felipe Calderón has deployed about 36,000 troops around the country to battle violent drug gangs.

More than 4,000 people have been killed in drug-related violence in México this year. Much of the violence takes place in northern México, where traffickers smuggle drugs over the border into the United States.


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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Nov. 20, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 231


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.

Searching

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.

Newspages

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.

Classifieds

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.

Statistics

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.


Digicel begins operations
with Honduran network


Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Digicel, the largest telecommunications operator in the Caribbean and recent entrant to the Central American market, has launched services in Honduras with an investment of $450 million to build a modern GSM network.

With a population of nearly 7.5 million people and mobile penetration currently at approximately 60 percent, Digicel said it is confident it can stimulate growth in the mobile market in Honduras by increasing mobile penetration within five years from its current level to 80 percent. Digicel also will be employing 450 people directly and 3,000 people indirectly.

“We are delighted to launch in Honduras and we see this market as having high-growth potential,” said Digicel Central America Chairman, Denis O’Brien. “With this launch, and our imminent launch in Panama, Digicel is cementing its footprint in the Central American mobile market. Our goal is to become a significant competitor in the region by delivering superior networks and a better service to our customers.”

Digicel entered the Central American market through its acquisition of the El Salvador operation, Digicel Holdings Ltd, in 2006. Since rebranding to Digicel El Salvador in April 2007, the company quickly tripled its customer base to move from being the fourth to the second mobile operator in the market. Digicel subsequently won licenses to operate in Honduras in December 2007 and Panama in May 2008.

With operations in 31 markets worldwide and more than 6.5 million customers, Digicel’s investment in the Caribbean and Central American region exceeds US$2.8 billion.

In Honduras the company’s network will include more than 500 retail distributors and more than 40,000 recharge outlets nationwide, Digicel said.

Hopes are high for traffic law

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The president of the Asamblea Legislativa said Wednesday that a new traffic law could be approved within 15 days.

He is Francisco Antonio Pacheco, who was acting as president of the country Wednesday in the absence of Óscar Arias Sánchez. Arias was in New York.

Both Pacheco and other officials agreed that the new law with stiffer penalties was vital to the country. The legislature has been criticized for stalling particularly after one of its members was detained on an allegation of driving drunk and being involved in a fatal accident.

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