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(506) 2223-1327        Published Friday, Jan. 2, 2009,  in Vol. 9, No. 1       E-mail us
Jo Stuart
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New year heralded by chilly and windy weather
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The new year came on strong Thursday as winds up to 57.7 kph (35.9 mph) rattled tin roofs and shook the countryside. The winds were accompanied by  seasonal cold weather with Cartago registering a low of 13.8 C. or 56.8 F.

There were no reports of injury or damage due to the wind. The highest gusts were registered in Liberia, according to the automatic station there maintained by the Instituto Meteorológico Nacional.

Liberia's high winds were offset by a higher temperature, which reached a maximum of 31.9 C. (89.5 F) during the day.
San José saw a 15 degree low at 11 p.m. Thursday. That's 59 degrees. Morning winds reached 39.7 kph or 24.7 mph, said the weather service. The winds drove away any possibility of rain.

The 57.7 kph winds were registered in Liberia at the Daniel Oduber airport. Winds certainly were higher in the mountains, and temperature lower.

For Costa Rica a temperature of 15 degrees C or 59 F can be nippy because homes lack central heating. Costa Ricans endure the lower temperatures because they signal the start of the dry season. The weather service predicted similar conditions for Friday.

A.M. Costa Rica posts substantial gains in 2008
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A.M. Costa Rica served up 16.6 million news and advertising pages to 691,986 unique readers in 2008, statistics at the newspaper's Web site show. The readership reflects a 17.6 percent increase over 2007.

There were 16.8 million visits to the newspaper Web site because many unique visitors signed on more than once in a 24-hour period. The server registered 56.5 million hits as it served up news and advertising related to Costa Rica and Latin America, according to the independent statistical program maintained by the operators of the server.

In 2007, the newspaper served up 13.6 million pages to 588,255 unique readers for a total of 1.5 million visits.

In addition to the 17.6 percent increase in unique visitors, total visits showed an increase of 15.7 percent. The total number of pages served up to readers showed a 22.3 percent increase, and total hits were up 20.5 percent.

The increases are typical as they reflect the growing dominance of the Internet over traditional newsprint-based publications. In the United States, the Christian Science Monitor, one of the most prestigious national newspapers, has eliminated its print edition in favor of the Internet. Another newspaper organization, The Chicago, Ill., Tribune, filed for bankruptcy Dec. 8.  
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In Detroit, The Free Press and News said Dec. 16 that they will end daily home delivery and only bring newspapers to readers Thursday, Friday and Sunday. The companies will increase their Internet operations. Getting the blame were costs of paper, ink and fuel. Both newspapers reported double digit readership declines.

Stock analysts and investors also see the print industry in trouble.

"Wall Street's antipathy towards the newspaper sector has hammered down the shares of even the rare company investors think is being run well. The share price of Gannett Co. Inc., for instance, is also down big this year -- losing 80 percent of its value," Editor & Publisher, the magazine that covers the industry, said Tuesday.

A.M. Costa Rica periodically discloses its readership statistics with the goal of keeping readers and advertisers informed.

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One-man crime wave
finally put behind bars

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The 56th time is a charm, according to the Fuerza Pública in San Pedro de Montes de Oca. Finally after 56 arrests in 2008  alone, a man has been put behind bars.

The man, identified by the last names of Esquivel Soto,
56 times arrested
already had been sentenced twice by the new Flagrancia court. But it was not until he graduated to using a firearm in a stickup did he end up behind bars, officers say.

The 22-year-old man is a drug user who supports his habit by breaking into vehicles in various sections of San Pedro, including along the popular Calle de la Amargura, the
location of many university bars and hangouts.

The crimes left many vehicle windows broken and all sorts of items taken from parked cars. But the crimes never seemed to rise to the level that would cause a judge to place a suspect in preventative detention or jail.

Sunday two men, 21 and 24, were robbed of cell telephones in Barrio Pinto, San Pedro. The men told police that the robber put a firearm to their heads to encourage compliance with his wishes. Fuerza Pública officers detained Esquivel, and a judge ordered him to be held for four months of preventative detention.

But in several earlier appearances in court, the man escaped jail. He was detained by police Oct. 2 in Calle de la Amargura carrying a car radio that had just been extracted from a nearby burglarized vehicle. A judge did not jail him but ordered him to community service in a Zapote educational institution.

Dec. 5, the same man was detained after someone busted a car window in Calle de la Amargura. Police said they confiscated a number of items usually found in cars, such as a hydraulic jack, a safety triangle and tools. A judge did not confine him but began a court case.

Dec. 7 police said they stopped Esquivel in a San Pedro park and found that he was carrying a wallet with documents and credit cards belonging to someone else. A judge did not confine him but sentenced him to six months of conditional release. The man was ordered to stay out of Barrio Roosevelt and La Granja, the location where stickups had been reported.

Illegal fireworks light up
city skyline as year changes

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Fireworks are supposed to be illegal, but early Thursday the sky over San José was lighted by hundreds of rockets fired from all the barrios of the city.

Still, police continued to crack down on retail sale. Near the Paco commercial center in Escazú Tuesday night they confiscated nearly 2 million colons worth (about $3,650) in fireworks, they said. The seller, identified by the names of Delgado Rodríguez, had been turned in by neighbors, police said.

Police and health officials have cracked down on fireworks sales for several years because they said they are trying to halt conditions that might lead to a child being burned.  Several cases have taken place with illegal fireworks already this holiday season.

The basic rule is that if a device explodes, it is illegal. That includes skyrockets.  Several legal displays, one at the Zapote holiday fiestas and another at the Parque de Diversiones,  were put on over Christmas.

Police at checkpoint stop
kidnapping and carjacking

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A man stopped at a police checkpoint in Pavas told officers he was being held by two robbers, and officers detained two minors, one 16 and the other 17.

Police said the two men held up the driver in Centro Comercial Plaza América in Hatillo 4 and forced him to go with them in the vehicle. The man said that the two boys were taking him to the countryside where they said they would leave him.

Police identified the two suspects by the last names of  Bonilla and Araya. The car owner was identified by the last names of Polanco Valverde.  Police said they confiscated a .38-caliber revolver.

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Police officer shot thwarting robbery at San José hostel
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Four men held up a budget hostel in north San José Tuesday night, and one robber as he fled shot a policeman in the eye.

The confrontation took place on Calle 7 some 250 meters north of Parque Morazán. This is an area popular with budget tourists where a handful of moderately priced hostels and hotels are located.

Fuerza Pública officers managed to detain two men, including the suspected assailant, but two others escaped in a car, said the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública.

The Poder Judicial identified the two detained men by the last name and ages of Morales Aguilar, 41, and Miranda Vásquez, 36. They have been jailed for investigation. They face allegations of aggravated robbery and attempted murder.

Wounded seriously was the police officer,  José Malespín
Chávez, 50, a 20-year veteran of the force. He was shot in the right eye and was in Hospital Calderón Guardia.

Four men entered the Kabata hostel on the west side of Calle 7 about 10:30 p.m. and threatened a woman working there, said the Fuerza Pública. Somehow police were alerted and a patrol car containing Malespín and another officer were first on the scene. Two robbers fled but Malespín got out of the police vehicle and confronted the two remaining individuals as they were leaving the hostel.

One man ignored a demand that he drop his weapon and shot Malespín in the eye, said Carlos León, commander of the Barrio México Fuerza Pública station. Then the man fired three shots into the parked patrol vehicle and shattered the windshield.

One of the fleeing men threw a pistol in the direction of a sewer, but police managed to recover the weapon.

The area along Calle 7 is heavily traveled by tourists en route to the downtown. There are frequent street robberies there, too.

Looking back on making the move to live in Costa Rica
Last year at this time I was living in the Residencia, an assisted living facility in San Antonio de Belén.  I had moved there because my friends were really worried about my health, and I began to worry, too.  Mainly I was worried that I was going to become a burden to them and my family before I knew I was being one.
Living in the Residence gave me an opportunity to see into what my future might be, and better yet, the chance to write about assisted living facilities in Costa Rica.  There are not many, in good part because there have not been government regulations and licenses for people interested in building such facilities to apply for. There has been little demand for them in the past.

Now I am back in San José in the same building where I used to live, but in a smaller apartment, living happily alone.  I may be a pain in the neck to my friends, but I am not a burden.  By smaller apartment, I mean two bedrooms, instead of three.  But it is still much larger than the two rooms and a bath that was my home for over a year. 

What I most appreciate is having a kitchen again.  It is my haven. It is where I go when I am at loose ends or in a dither. I don’t go there to eat, although I do try to get another glass of water, which I will forget to drink.  I cook something and happily lose myself in the process. 

The joy is being in charge of my own life, of coming and going when and where I want, and cooking and eating what I want and what I think is healthy. 

As a woman living alone in Costa Rica, I am not that much of a rarity.  In many ways, Costa Rica is the ideal home abroad for many women who no longer can afford or want to live in the countries where they were born. 

Some of the women are divorced or widowed and have retired here.  Others have had or still have professional jobs.  Some do volunteer work. 

Many, wisely, already know or begin to learn Spanish.  I knew Castilian when I arrived, but that is not what they speak.  I still have problems understanding Tico slang and the accents outside of San José.  Enrolling in a school that teaches Spanish and also offers homestays with a local
Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart

family solves two problems at once: where to live and what to do in the early months. 

That is the time to begin to get an idea where you want to live.  Visit different parts of the country, check out city life and town or country life, the beach or the Central Valley.  Costa Rica has different climates; check them out.

These are the things I did in the early months of my arrival.  It does not mean that I was not lonely or frustrated or didn’t question my decision.  I still had plan B if things did not work out.

The next move was finding an apartment.  San José seemed the best place to live.  I didn’t want to own a car, or a house or a pet.  I enjoyed being within walking distance or easy bus ride to the supermarket, the Teatro Nacional for music and movie theaters for the latest releases in English with Spanish subtitles. (Most of the movie houses downtown have since closed and are now located in the shopping malls).

Then I began attending meetings of some of the clubs I read about in The Tico Times.  (There was no A.M. Costa Rica back then.)  I met other expats and locals interested in theater, politics, bridge, writing and community work. 

I began to make friends.  That is when I settled in and decided that I was where I wanted to be. This is, I believe, my 16th New Year in Costa Rica.  I will be spending it with friends, good friends. 

Some of my good friends are via e-mail only.  Some of you write to tell me you enjoy my columns. Others to take me to task for what I have said or what I believe and set me straight.

A thanks to all of you, I wish you a peaceful, fufilling and Happy 2009.

You need to see Costa Rican tourism information HERE!

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For many Miami Cubans Castro's celebration evokes sorrow
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Cuba's government is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the victory of guerrilla forces led by Fidel Castro over dictator Fulgencio Batista. For the nearly two million Cubans who have fled the Communist-ruled island since then, the day evokes difficult memories.

Nearly half of Cubans who have fled the Communist nation in the past 50 years have settled in the Miami area.

Some sought to leave through official channels, often waiting years for approval from Cuba's government. Others escaped on smuggler's boats or defected while on approved travel outside the island. For many Cubans, the details of the ordeals matter less than the knowledge they are free from Communist rule.

The hosts of Miami-based Radio Republica discussed the latest efforts of Cubans to leave the island during a program that was beamed into Cuba this week. They said Cubans were lined up at the Spanish embassy in Havana, hoping to take advantage of a new law that grants citizenship to the grandchildren of Spanish immigrants.

Julio Estorino, who directs the radio show for the pro-democracy group Cuban Democratic Directorate, says Spanish citizenship offers the hope of living in a place with freedom and rights. He says it is sad that so many Cubans see no hope if they remain in Cuba.

For many Cubans the United States has given opportunities for education, work and travel they would not have in Cuba.

Miami restaurant owner Ailin Fernandez left Cuba more than 20 years ago. She longs to return home and open a restaurant in the beach town of Varadero but not under the current government.
She says there are opportunities here for people who work hard, but the same is not true in Cuba.

Others, like Giselle Palacios, 18, have come to Miami to escape political persecution on the island. As the daughter of prominent dissidents, she fled after being kicked out of college for her political activities.

She says she hopes to finish her studies in Miami and return home someday to help rebuild the country. She says all Cubans should be able to go home.

Giselle's parents remain in Cuba, where her father was recently jailed for his political involvement. For her, the policies of Cuba's revolutionary government have meant the forced separation of her family, as well as many others.

Comedian Bonco Quinongo left Cuba nine years ago to advance his career. His decision prompted the government to label him a deserter, making it nearly impossible to return home to visit his two daughters and his ailing father.

He says he may have found success by leaving Cuba, but there is something else that is missing, and it pains him deeply.

Like many Cuban exiles, Quinongo is not following the 50th anniversary celebration planned in Havana. The day stirs difficult memories of what has been lost in the past five decades.

He says the word revolution is supposed to mean renewal and progress, but in the case of Cuba, it really means a rejection of those things.

When Fidel Castro claimed victory 50 years ago, few expected his revolutionary forces to remain in power as long as they have. For many Cuban exiles, the question is how much longer can the Communist government continue.

Cuba marks 50 years of the Castro Brothers' dictatorship
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Thursday Cuba marked 50 years since Fidel Castro took control of the country in the Communist revolution.

President Raúl Castro was in the eastern city of Santiago at the same spot where his older brother proclaimed victory Jan. 1, 1959.

After ousting dictator Fulgencio Batista, the elder Castro ruled Cuba for 49 years, resisting what he viewed as U.S. imperialism.

Raúl Castro formally took over from his ailing brother in February, promising reforms for the economically-strapped Cuba, which is now one of the world's last Communist strongholds.

On the eve of the anniversary Wednesday, a White House spokesman, Gordon Johndroe, said the United States will
continue to seek freedom for Cubans. He said the Castro brothers have not treated their people well, noting that many political dissidents are in jail.

Under Fidel Castro, Cubans experienced a range of advances and setbacks, from improvements in education and health care to a U.S. economic embargo that has contributed to the country's financial hardships during the past five decades.

Many Cubans are hoping for an improvement in U.S.-Cuban relations when U.S. president-elect Barack Obama takes office Jan. 20.

The 82-year-old Fidel Castro has not been seen in public since undergoing intestinal surgery in 2006, but maintains a strong presence in Cuba and around the world. He has become the model for a new generation of leftist leaders in Latin America, including Venezuela's Hugo Chávez and Bolivia's Evo Morales.

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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.

Plastic bag ban impact
being felt in San Francisco

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

There are now laws all over the world — from China to Bangladesh to Ireland — banning, restricting or taxing plastic shopping bags. In the United States, San Francisco, California, in March became the first American city to ban non-biodegradable plastic bags.

Sunset Scavenger dump is home to the waste of some 820,000 San Francisco residents, waste that is made up of untold numbers of plastic bags. They are cheap to produce, but hard to recycle, and they often end up in places they should not be, said Robert Reed, spokesman for Sunset Scavenger Waste.

"They're very lightweight. They blow into marshes, and onto farms. They wind up in the Bay, and in the current, and they wind up out in the ocean. They are a threat to marine life," Reed said.

These hazards, and the fact that the city was trashing roughly 180 million plastic bags a year, are what prompted San Francisco Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi to write a bill banning plastic carrier bags from all major chain supermarkets and pharmacies. But he hopes the law will inspire people to do more than that.

"The ban is also not just about not using plastic bags," Mirkarimi said. "But it's about not using paper as well, so that the goal and the thrust would be: hey, use neither paper nor plastic, bring your own."

'Bringing your own' is a concept shopper Sabina Talia-Ferro was already familiar with.

"In Holland, they never give you a bag, you have to bring your own bags, so I was accustomed to that already," she said.

Other shoppers have happily cooperated with the ban. 

Grocers too. Store owner Sam Mogannam says he now pays 10 times more to provide paper bags to customers than he did with plastic.

"The only impact was the increase in cost, and it wasn't a cost we were opposed to taking," he said.

Not all grocers feel that way. The California Grocers Association, which represents about 500 members, does not support the ban, said spokesman Dave Heylen.

"The intention of the ordinance was to move consumers away from bags and to begin to have them look at alternative ways of shopping," he said. "But we don't think that this accomplishes that.  All that it has done is that consumers have just shifted from a plastic bag to a paper bag."

The next step? To extend the ban to small grocers and retailers. Supervisor Mirkarimi also says he's working on a bill to ban plastic bags on newspapers.

Jo Stuart
Real Estate
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