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(506) 2223-1327       Published Monday, Jan. 19, 2009,  in Vol. 9, No. 12        E-mail us
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A positive report on seeking a U.S. visitor's visa
By Garland M. Baker
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

A long-time friend asked for a recommendation letter last week so she could apply for her U. S. visa.  Reluctantly, this author agreed to provide the letter.  She picked it up and nervously went off to her appointment that she scheduled months ago.  Expats complain all the time they can not get their girlfriends or boyfriends visas to the United States. A single woman, like the friend, would seem to be a certain refusal.

The woes of those seeking U.S. visas were outlined here in a 2007 article, "Burden of evidence is on those seeking a U.S. visa."

Many hours later, the friend called and said she got a 10-year visa with no trouble at all.  The embassy employees were correct in giving her a visa even though some of the paperwork she took with her was not very impressive.  A bank account had $200 in it and an average balance of around $250.  She even forgot most of her payroll slips from her current job. 

What she had and what got her the visa was arraigo.  This word in Spanish means: ties, roots, settlement, or otherwise just being established somewhere.  It means living somewhere with roots where it would not be easy just to go off to the United States permanently.

The friend is a Panamanian. She could have moved back to Panama years ago to be with her family, but she did not.  Instead, she entrenched herself into Costa Rica, making it her home.  She painfully did all that was required of her to get Costa Rican residency and has kept it up-to-date.  That, in itself, has not been an easy task, immigration still is a quagmire.  Over the past couple of years, the government has had to give extensions to people with expired documents because of bureaucratic inefficiency.  She also has had only a very few number of jobs and has stayed in them for years not months.  

Looking into the facts of visa issuances verses denials deeper, stastistics show that in the year 2007 — the latest statistics available on Costa Rica — only 22.4 percent of the people requesting visas at the Costa Rican Embassy to go to the United States were denied them.  This means 77.6 percent got them.  It is important to note, these statistics are for B1, business, and B2, tourism, and combination B1/B2 visas.  The 2007 numbers are better than the 2006 visa refusal rates where 24.1 percent of visa applicants were refused U.S. visas.  This is a 1.7 percent improvement in one year

Now for a bit of fine print.  The tables for the adjusted refusal rates for 2006 and 2007 state that the "data must be read in conjunction with the explanatory notes." They are not too cryptic and are easily understood by anyone interested in the visa program.  They also give an invaluable insight to those who have been denied a visa.

The visa refusal rates before 2006 are very difficult to find and are not in nice neat tables as the current ones.  The numbers are buried in many other statistics.

Many expats would like to travel to the United States with friends to show them around.  If their friend goes about the process the right way and can prove true ties to Costa Rica, he or she probably will get a visa.  They have a better than 75 percent chance to do so.   The expat also should do a bit of homework and ask the friend the right questions to see if they do have what it takes to get a United States visa.  The embassy's Web site is a wealth
visa for United States

of information regarding the visa process.

What it takes is a life that is obviously one that makes that person want to live in Costa Rica and not the United States.  As stated in the article in 2007, and now on the Web site of the embassy, "Every alien shall be presumed to be an immigrant until he establishes to the satisfaction of the officer, at the time of the application for a visa... that he is entitled to nonimmigrant status . . . ."  How can that statement be more clear.

This means that expats who have hooked up with a friend in Costa Rica and promised to show them the United States could get themselves into heaps of trouble if their friend can not qualify.  This is very common with the younger friends of the older expats. 

Now to be fair, there are horror stories on both sides of the fence.  Persons who should qualify do not, and many times an unqualfied person gets a visa.  Everyone makes mistakes, even officials at the United States Embassy.   The steps to take in the case of a visa denial are clearly explained on the embassy's Web site too.  The Web site states, " If your application for a nonimmigrant visa has been refused, you will be told why at the interview and provided with a written explanation.  The most common refusals are under Section 221(g) and Section 214(b) of the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act . . .  Under Section 221(g) additional legal requirements must be met before the visa can be authorized."  The fine print of the information mentioned above adjusts for denials that have been reversed into approvals, so there is a system to do so.

All in all, it seems like the United States Embassy's information on its Web site regarding immigration and visas to the United States is more comprehensive and better organized than in 2007.  The printing wizards to fill out the forms before getting to the embassy are fantastic, a great improvement over the past.   Most importantly, more Costa Ricans are going to the United States because visa denials are down, meaning approvals are up, if the State Department statistics are accurate.

Garland M. Baker is a 36-year resident and naturalized citizen of Costa Rica who provides multidisciplinary professional services to the international community.  Reach him at  Baker has undertaken the research leading to these series of articles in conjunction with A.M. Costa Rica.  Find the collection at, a complimentary reprint is available at the end of each article.  Copyright 2004-2008, use without permission prohibited.

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More than half of homes
declared safe for evacuees

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Experts have evaluated 1,087 homes in the Jan. 8 earthquake area and have pronounced 664 as being safe for habitation. But getting the occupants back home is going slowly.

More than 2,000 persons remain in shelters. Some are afraid to return home.

Meanwhile rescue workers are considering ending the search for seven persons who are missing. The Cruz Roja already announced that it was reducing its presence in the earthquake area.

Rescue workers have been digging in the landslides that buried buildings and people. But the danger of the work has been compounded by rain. The job is frustrating. For example, in the community of Cinchona, two persons are almost certainly buried under hundreds of tons of dirt at the scene of the destroyed eating place or soda El Mirador. But even heavy machinery has been unable to locate them.

In another case, an occupant of a wrecked home is listed as missing, but neighbors speculate that the man may have returned home to his native Nicaragua.

The death toll still stands at 23.

The experts at the national emergency commission and the Colegio Federado de Ingenieros y Arquitectos said that 423 homes were destroyed or are so heavily damaged as to be unusable. The government is seeking to find permanent housing for these victims.

Much of Ruta 126 remains closed. Slides and obstructions have been removed, but stretches of the highway collapsed into the adjacent valley. The Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes is considering ways to restore the roadway at these gaps.

The tragedy has ignited sympathy among average Costa Ricans. Several fund drives and marathons were held over the weekend, and volunteers with donations cans have been making their way along highway traffic and even in malls and walkways.

The most secure way to donate, however, remains Banco de Costa Rica (91100-3 colons and 118281-1 dollars) and Banco Nacional de Costa Rica (colons 100-01-000-100100-7, and dollars 100-02-000-068666-7).  Transfers can be made online. Those outside of the country can make a wire transfer to the accounts or sign on to the Cruz Roja Web page where one link allows donations by credit card from anywhere in the world, the Cruz Roja said. Those accounts are 100100-7 (colons) and 68666-7 (dollars), both at Banco Nacional.

Western Union, which has donated $50,000 to earthquake relief, has setup a program to allow foreigners to donate to the Cruz Roja without cost. The company will accept donations of up to $1,000 each, and those making the donation should specify EARTHQUAKERELIEF CR. In Costa Rica the code word is  AYUDATERREMOTO CR.

Morning Escazú robberies
lead to arrest of suspect

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Investigators have detained a man they suspect patrolled the Escazú area with the aim of committing violent robberies against young women. They estimated that there are at least 22 cases involving this individual.

The robber was distinctive in that he used a microbus to approach the women victims, whose ages ranged from 18 to 28.

The crimes took place in San Rafael de Escazú, San Antonio, Guachipelín, Trejos Montealegre and spots along the highway to Santa Ana. The time usually was between 7:30 a.m. and 9 p.m, and the victims mainly were women on their way to work, said agents.

Investigators said that the robber would pull up on a victim and then get out and violently take the possessions of the women. If the victims put up resistance, the robber would hit the women.

Judicial investigators in the Sección de Asaultos are seeking information from more victims.

Salary base for 2009 set
for judges to set fines

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Lawmakers address the problem of the devaluation of the colon by setting criminal fines according to what they call the salario base.  Sometimes a fine will be expressed in base salaries and sometimes in a number of days' pay.

For example, being drunk in a public place calls for a fine of from 10 to 50 days and a tourist who is found working here draws a fine of three to 30 days.

The Consejo Superior del Poder Judicial fixed the base salary for this year at 269,800 colons, which a typical office worker's monthly salary and is about $491.50. If there are no drastic changes in the economy, the amount of the base salary will remain in force for the entire year, said the Poder Judicial.

More cell phones enter
consumer market today

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad is putting some 100,000 cell phone lines up for use today to persons who already have submitted their names on the waiting list.

Among other items, those seeking a telephone line have to bring a telephone and the sales receipt for the device.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Jan. 19, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 12

Why the civil rights struggle was not just for minorities
By Jay Brodell
editor of A.M. Costa Rica

Today is the birthday of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., the U.S. civil rights leader. To consider this national holiday as some kind of sop for black people would be an error.

King and the U.S. civil rights movement of which he is the most prominent figure are far more than simply the enfranchisement of a minority.

According to U.S. historian Michael Schudson, the civil rights movement led the United States into a new kind of democracy, one where the private citizen can not only vote but he or she can enforce individual and collective rights via the courts.

Brown v. Board of Education, the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court decision, is seen as the precursor to this tradition. Topeka, Kansas, parents went to court to reverse the separate-but-equal rule in black children's education.

The decision fueled a 50-year, frequently bloody, process that results in the inauguration of an African-American Tuesday as U.S. president.

In a broader political context, the decision encouraged a flood of rights-based legal cases that are outside the traditional electoral system. To some extent this has influenced the Costa Rican jurisprudence, too, and caused the creation of the Sala IV constitutional court that is now the final arbitrator of rights here.

According to Schudson:

"The civil rights movement opened the door to a widening web of both constitutionally-guaranteed citizen rights and statutory acts based on an expanded understanding of citizens' entitlements, state obligations and the character of due process. This affected not only the civil and political rights of African-Americans but the rights of women and of the poor and, increasingly, of minority groups of all sorts. This helped stimulate a broad federalization of American politics."

Not everyone appreciates this trend. Even President Óscar Arias Sánchez seeks changes in the Costa Rican Constitution because he says the country is ungovernable. The truth is that every little decision, right down to individual medical problems and certainly large development projects, can end up as supreme court cases.
Martin Luther King
The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Such is the case in the United States, compounded by the large number of new laws each legislating body insists on passing.

Many decry judicial activism, although it is hard to see how in Brown v. Board of Education any thinking individual from far conservative to far liberal would deny fundamental educational rights to persons because of race or skin color.

The unanimous decision by a U.S. Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice Earl Warren has passed into history and myth. But the spinoff is obvious every time, for example, an environmentalist goes to court here to save trees or in the United States to enforce pollution standards.

Martin Luther King Jr. was a newlywed when the U.S. Supreme court handed down the Brown v. Board of education decision. But a year later, as pastor of a Montgomery, Alabama, church, he began his civil rights career during the bus boycott in that city.

King cannot be credited with engineering the Brown decision.  Thurgood Marshall, the lawyer for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and later a U.S. Supreme Court justice, deserves much of that honor. But King took the philosophy of the decision to new levels. And, by extension, he made the U.S. governmental process more complex and more fair for everyone.

Costanera Sur expected to be finished by end of this year
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The end of work on the Costanera Sur is in sight. The transport ministry said that by the end of the year, the entire 42 kilometers (26 miles) between Quepos and Dominical will be paved.

The project is seen as a boon to tourism and a way to reduce traffic in the Central Valley.

In addition, transport officials said that critical bridges should be finished by the middle of the year. Work had been stopped by and damage sustained from the October floods.

The Costanera Sur already has been graded. That was a $17.7 million job that included installing drainage systems.

The final paving is in two contracts. Consorcio Meco-Santa Fe has the job between Savegre and Quepos. That stretch is about 19 kilometers (about 13 miles) and will cost $16.4 million. The section from Savegre to Dominical is 22.6 kilometers (about 14 miles) and the responsibility of  Constructora Solís-Sánchez Carvajal. The contract is for $15.5 million.

In both sections the workers will install a 30-centimeter (12-inch) sub base, a 20-centimeter (eight-inch) base and a 13-centimeter (5.1-inch) road surface.
The Costanera Sur was one of those projects that was much talked about and promised by every administration for the last 30 years because of the obvious beneficial impact on the area along the central Pacific coast.

When the road is finished, trucks can easily go north and south along the coast without traveling on the Interamerican highway that goes through San José and Cartago. That is possible now but the condition of the road makes travel risky in bad weather. Trucks from the north and south also will be able to avoid crossing the central mountains twice to go from one border to the other.

The  Meco-Santa Fe contract has a deadline of eight months. The Solís-Sánchez Carvajal has a 10-month deadline, according to the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes. However, there are provisions for extensions if bad weather intervenes.

Most of the bridges on the road also are expected to be finished by the middle of the year.  The span at Parrita, a $3.7 million job will have a cycle path and a pedestrian walkway. A bridge over the Río Naranjo is valued at $2.8 million.

Bridges at Hatillo Viejo and Hatillo Nuevo were begun in May. These are on the Costanera Sur route. In addition, Jan. 5 work began to rebuild and widen a bridge over the Río Savegre.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Jan. 19, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 12

Polls show optimism in U.S. and tarnished image overseas
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A poll published Sunday in The New York Times newspaper indicates that Americans have high hopes for and high confidence in president-elect Barack Obama. Meanwhile, a separate poll said that citizens in 18 or 21 countries do not view the United States favorably.

Some 79 percent of those polled said they are optimistic about the next four years under Obama.

And 61 percent of the 1,100 Americans surveyed this month said they think the United States will be better off five years from now.  But, most Americans said they do not expect to see real progress for at least two years.

A separate poll published Sunday indicates that citizens in 18 of 21 countries do not view the United States favorably, mostly because of U.S. policies towards human rights, citizen rights, and peace and cooperation.

That online poll of 22,000 people was conducted in late 
November for Reuters news agency by the international market research company Ipsos Global Public Affairs. 

It shows that only India, Poland and the United States itself had majorities that gave the U.S. favorable ratings.

Ipsos polled people in Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Britain, Canada, China, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Turkey and the United States.

Last week, President George Bush strongly disagreed with a reporter's assertion that the reputation of the U.S. had been tarnished overseas.  Bush countered that America's reputation might have been damaged only among some of the so-called "elite."

An Ipsos spokesman, Clifford Young, said the poll's results suggest that Obama's administration will need to address U.S. policies on human rights and peace and cooperation, if it wants to improve U.S. standing overseas.

Bush issues proclamation putting revised trade treaty with Perú into force
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

U.S. President George Bush has issued a proclamation putting into effect a free trade agreement with Perú.
U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab said Friday the proclamation marks an important milestone in the relationship between the U.S. and Peru.

The agreement gives Perú permanent, duty-free access to the U.S. In return, Perú will eliminate duties on most U.S. industrial and consumer products.
The pact was initially approved after discussions between President Bush and Peruvian President Alan Garcia.

Democrats in Congress forced U.S. officials to reopen negotiations and add stronger labor and environmental provisions.

Peru's Congress this week passed modifications to earlier legislation to conform with the trade pact.

The agreement will take effect on the first of February.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Jan. 19, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 12

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.

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Contacting us

Both the main telephone number and the editor's e-mail address are listed on the front page near the date.

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Case of Caracas colonel
featured by rights group

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The Human Rights Foundation published a report Friday detailing the arrest and torture of Jose Humberto Quintero, a lieutenant colonel of the Venezuelan National Guard.

Quintero was detained in January 2005, by the Venezuelan government for capturing terrorist leader Ricardo Gonzalez, popularly known as Rodrigo Granda, of the Furezas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia.

Granda, known as the terrorist group's foreign minister, has ties to Costa Rica. He later was released by the Colombian government as part of an effort to conduct an exchange of prisoners.

“The case of Humberto Quintero exemplifies numerous violations of human rights, including violations of international law, specifically, provisions that prohibit arbitrary detention and the use of torture, inhumane, and other degrading treatment," said Sarah Wasserman of the foundation. "Colonel Quintero’s imprisonment also appears to be politically motivated, as his arrest came at a time of heightened tensions between the governments of Colombia and Venezuela over Granda’s capture.”

As commander of the anti-extortion and kidnapping unit, Quintero led successful counterterrorism operations. The Venezuelan government charged him with high treason, abuse of authority, violation of military decorum, and illegitimate deprivation of liberty for capturing Granda in December of 2004, and delivering him to the Colombian authorities in return for a cash payment.

Other sources are less kind to Quintero and call him crooked or corrupt for taking money and conducting a rogue operation.

Quintero was arrested, taken to a dungeon at the military intelligence division, and tortured by members of Venezuela’s military intelligence and civilian police for seven days. At the time, Granda lived in Venezuela under the protection of the Venezuelan government. Granda was on the International Police Agency's list of wanted guerrilla members in Colombia. The Paraguayan government claims that in September 2004, while he was in Venezuela, Granda planned the kidnapping and eventual murder of Cecilia Cubas, daughter of former Paraguayan president Raúl Cubas. An arrest order for Granda from a Paraguayan court is still outstanding.

During an interview with a foundation employee inside Ramo Verde prison, Quintero said that he was subjected to asphyxiation, beatings, and threats to kidnap his wife and daughter and hand them over to the the Fuerzas Armadas, said the foundation.

According to Quintero, the reason for his torture was three fold: to coerce him to accept his alleged responsibility for Granda’s capture; to force a confession that he had received a significant monetary reward for the capture; and to make him declare that members of the Colombian and U.S. Special Forces had been part of the operation, the foundation said.

Jo Stuart
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