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Published Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2017, in Vol. 17, No. 18
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Container of donations held hostage by government
By Conor Golden
of  the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A shipping container bearing donated medical supplies for underprivileged people is being held for months over a demand for import duties at the Costa Rican port of Caldera.

Since October 2016, the California non-profit organization Nuestra Ayuda has been negotiating with Costa Rican authorities to release the donated medical and healthcare supplies for people in desperate need, said the organization’s president, Edward Solarewicz. He is visiting the country now.

According to the content list provided to A.M. Costa Rica by Solarewicz, the shipping container holds approximately 12 boxes and four carts loaded down with various medical supplies. The content list also includes loose items such as crutches, an electric wheelchair and a dental table.

Other items include things such as oxygen tanks, defibrillators, hospital gurneys, sanitizers and adult diapers. These are supposed to be doled out to people in need in Talamanca and Limón, according to the group.

While the majority of items on the list show medical supplies, there also are electrical cords, computers, a kid’s bicycle, keyboards and even a set of golf clubs, according to the list.

The situation has gotten so desperate that some of volunteers have been feigning illness or disability in order to bring individual health supplies into the country, according to Solarewicz. The group issued an open letter Saturday begging the port authority and the government to release the container.

Solarewicz said that the items within the container are being held because they were not properly priced and itemized. The government intended to assess a tax based on the value. Nuestra Ayuda has also been asked to pay a storage fee of around $50 a day to hold the container, according to Solarewicz. That is money the foundation cannot afford to spend, he said.

The organization maintains its own storage behind the Playa Negra Hotel in Puerto Viejo.

“Many volunteers in Costa Rica worked hard to exempt the container from taxation to no avail. The disabled people started questioning the integrity of the law which hampers gifts
Nuestra Ayuda photo
California volunteer stands next to container.

of generous people in California from being delivered,” the foundation’s open letter said.

The foundation is registered as a non-profit organization in Costa Rica, according to Solarewicz. Its members take the stance that, because the items were donated free of charge, the value at the time of acquisition is non-existent. There was no price paid for it. Actions such as these, the foundation said, would discourage other donors who want to aid Costa Rica. For Solarewicz, he just wants the items released so they can immediately be sent to those who need them.

This is not the first time that sponsors of donated items have had trouble getting containers through Costa Rica customs.

The items within the container took an entire month to collect and ship, according to Solarewicz. He also mentioned that since the container has been detained, he has not been allowed to check on it or see its contents to make sure nothing was stolen or destroyed.

Nuestra Ayuda was founded around eight years ago by Solarewicz, an electrician, who sought to give back to the Costa Rican community after sustaining serious burns on his feet. He has property and has lived in Playa Negra. If not for the care of the doctors, he said, he would have lost both feet to infection. The non-profit primarily devotes its time and resources to improving the quality of life to the impoverished communities in Talamanca province, according to the website.

The supplies were shipped out by the Sacramento-based freight transportation company USKO Shipping, Inc. According to an itemized shipping list, the group estimated the current value of all the supplies to be around $34,000.

Window-breaking crooks continue as roadway perils
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Investigators got 134 reports last year of crooks who stole by breaking vehicle windows in the metro area.  Marco Carrion, the chief of the section that investigates such crimes, says this figure is much lower than reality because many victims do not make reports.

Carrion gave a presentation Tuesday about the crimes, which he said mostly happen at traffic lights in Hatillo on the Circunvalación highway. There were 78 cases reported from there last year, he said.

The best defense besides not traveling there is to put briefcases and similar items in the vehicle trunk, he said.  Other trouble spots are in La Uruca near the monument to the Instituto Costarricense de Acueductos y Alcantarillados and in Curridabat at La Gallería.

These are places where vehicle traffic slow down or stop to give crooks a chance to spot a target, break a window and steal. And there are weeds and brush nearby to conceal a getaway.

Women, of course, are prime targets because they usually have purses on the passenger seat of their vehicle, he said.

Carrion noted that this type of activity has been going on for at least 10 years and said he believes that most of the crimes are by organized gangs of young men who live in the Hatillo neighborhoods.

He also suggested leaving maneuvering space when stopped in a line of cars.

More resourceful crooks now are putting objects in the road to cause a car to stop or to blow a tire, he said.

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Highway claims three lives in a day

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The closing of Río Virilla bridge lanes has caused an enormous amount of traffic delays. Those delays are not helping prevent new fatalities and injuries.

In the second weekday that the bridge lanes have been closed Saturday, there have been three deaths on the General Cañas highway that crosses the platina, as it is commonly called, between the capital and Alajuela.

The first deaths occurred about 6 a.m. Tuesday when two 37-year-old men rear-ended a bus. Both vehicles were traveling towards Alajuela. The pickup then was struck in the rear by a minibus, and then a passenger bus collided with it. Some18 people on the bus were sent to the hospital, according to the Cruz Roja. The bodies were transferred to the Morgue Judicial for the autopsies and judicial agents continue to investigate the circumstances of the accident.

Both men were employees at the Hospital de Alajuela.

Another fatality occurred about the same time when a 57-year old man died after being hit by a vehicle when he attempted to cross the same highway near Cariari. The vehicle was traveling towards the capital. Judicial agents are also still investigating the circumstances of this death, while the body was being sent to Morgue Judicial to determine the official cause of his death.

Traffic Tuesday continued to be a mess with long delays when police closed the two lanes that remain open on the bridge to all but emergency and public transportation during peak rush hours.

In addition, the inability of train service and buses to handle the demand continues to be obvious.

The project causing all the distress is the addition of a third lane to each side of the four-lane bridge. The work now is on the eastbound lanes, which have been closed. A single traffic lane in each direction is open on what had been the westbound lanes.

Workmen have to tear up the concrete on two existing lanes and lay concrete blocks on bridge girders that will form the new third lane.

From the government point of view, the traffic situation will improve as people adjust to the closing schedule.

Rail officials said they are bringing passenger cars from Puntarenas and Limón to augment those in service between the capital and Belén and Alajuela. The current number of cars does not seem to be able to handle the passengers rapidly.

Acts still sought for arts festival

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Proposals can still be submitted for the 25th annual international arts festival happening this summer in San José.

The Ministerio de Cultural y Juventud set the deadline for all interested artists to submit their work or their performance outline for what is touted as the largest cultural and artistic event in Costa Rica. Proposals were first opened on Jan. 3 and will close at 11 p.m. next Tuesday.

The festival will be held from June 29 to July 9. The call extends to both Costa Rican citizens and permanent, legal residents to participate, according to the ministry. An international curator will decide which selections from international artists will be included in the international section.

Selections will be based on the judgment of a festival curator. The cultural ministry said it is particularly interested in individuals or groups that perform or create in the urban art style. This includes performances of theater, street theater, children’s theater, puppets, dance, urban dance, aerial dance, circus or clown acts, storytelling, magic shows and music.

Those interested in participating can visit the Centro de Producción Artística y Cultural’s website. Interested artists must also be registered in the Sistema Integrado de Compras Públicas.

Third defendant admits coke connection

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The wife of a Queens, New York, restaurant owner admitted Monday that she conspired to import more than 110 pounds of cocaine from Costa Rica, according to news reports.

New York newspapers reported the guilty plea of Eleonora Gigliotti late Monday for conspiracy to import cocaine. The New York Daily News reported that a judge could sentence Ms. Gigliotti to the maximum sentence of 17.5 years. At the minimum, she faces the mandatory sentence of five years in prison and a $1.6 million fine, according to news reports.

According to the Department of Justice, the case began in 2014 when law enforcement intercepted shipments of yucca root that was shipped to the United States from Costa Rica and bound for Cucino Amodo Mio, an Italian restaurant and pizzeria in Queens, and Fresh Farm Produce Export Corp., an import company in New York. These shipments were found to also contain substantial amounts of cocaine, authorities reported.

Gregorio Gigliotti. the owner, and his son Angelo were found guilty by a federal jury in July 2015 for the operation of a transnational cocaine operation spanning across Italy, the United States and Costa Rica. Federal Judge Raymond Dearie sentenced Gregorio Gigliotti to a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in prison. Angelo Gigliotti received a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in prison. 

According to the Justice Department report, Gregorio Gigliotti’s wife, Eleonora, traveled to Costa Rica at one point with more than $360,000 in cash that she delivered to the sources of supply.  Franco Fazio, a relative and Italian national, also made several trips between Italy to New York and then to Costa Rica to deliver another hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash to the sources in Costa Rica.  

The Gigliotti defendants were arrested on March 11, 2015, in New York. Evidence presented at trial included court-authorized wiretaps and physical surveillance. This evidence revealed that Gregorio Gigliotti, together with his wife, owned and operated several businesses in New York City that were used to facilitate their narcotics-trafficking operation. Their son played the role of Gregorio’s trusted assistant, including handling the drug trafficking operation when Gregorio was out of the country, the government said.

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Boruca diablitos will square off against the bull again this week
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The devils of a Boruca community are coming out to fight the Spanish conquistadors once again for the this year’s Juego de los Diablitos. At least, that is the symbolism behind the event.

The ceremony spans three days from Thursday until Sunday and involves the entire community from the elders to children at Rey Curré. The location is on Boruca tribal land and is located in southwest of Costa Rica near the Pacific Ocean.

This three-day long celebration represents one of the oldest native traditions in Costa Rica commemorating the 16th century conquest of the region by the Spanish empire.

It represents an attempt at preservation of the ethnic identity of the Boruca.

There are many preparations before the ceremony begins with one of the most important being in the making of chicha, according to the Ministerio de Cultural y Juventud. This is completed mainly by the women in the community who prepare the corn a month in advance in order for the yeasts to ferment the mix, the ministry said.

Young people dress up as diablitos, or little devils in Spanish, and prepare the distinctive and grotesque-looking masks that will be worn during the game. For the Juego de los Diablitos itself, the devils represent the native tribes while a bull represents the colonizer. They will be in a pitched battle for three days beginning after midnight on Friday.

Ministerio de Cultural y Juventud photo
Diablitos confront the bull at Rey Curré

After the previous feasting and celebrating on Thursday, the community will climb a hill, which is considered a sacred place according to ancestral legends. Then music of flutes and drums combined with the signal of the cacique, or greater devil, will signal the diablitos to be born.

These demons descend from the hill, going house to house being fed with chicha and other food. The celebration goes without stopping until dawn on Friday when the bull arrives. The cacique then summons the people to arms and confronts the bull until it is finally defeated on Sunday, according to information from the ministry.

U.S. firm says it is closings down its Alajuela production facility
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A Minnesota-based firm said Tuesday that it will close its Costa Rican production facility and eliminate about 113 jobs. The firm has had operations here for 28 years.

The company is Communications Systems, Inc., of Minnetonka, Minnesota. It’s plant in Alajuela mainly produces electronic connectivity and injection molding products for its Suttle subsidiary. The plant is in the Parque Industrial Zona Franca Alajuela.

Among its employees are convicts from the La Reforma prison, said the firm. The company website said that they work two shifts in assembly operations. The goal of this program is to help provide support to the families while the men are incarcerated and to contribute to the men’s reintegration into society after their term has been served, the firm said.

The closure is intended to increase the efficiency of Suttle’s operations and improve the lead time and availability of its products, the firm said.

These actions are in response to declines in revenue in Suttle, which has experienced two years of operating losses, the parent firm said. Winding down activities will begin this week, and all production will be transferred within the next six months, it added.

“Suttle has had a presence in Costa Rica for over 28 years and the decision to close the Alajuela facility was not easy,” said Roger Lacey, Communications Systems’ chief executive officer. “Because we remain optimistic about Suttle’s market opportunity, we did consider alternatives to closing the facility. But we are facing the reality that customers, primarily in the United States, demand quick turn around on orders, prefer American-made products and demand value for money spent, thus we are unable to maintain our two production facilities.”

“We expect the closing to create operational efficiencies and reduce costs,” said Mark Fandrich, chief financial officer. “Total cost to close the Costa Rica facility is expected to be approximately $1.6 million, and we expect the charges to be incurred by the end of third quarter of this year. Payback is expected to be less than one year after concluding the close.”

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2017, Vol. 17, No. 18
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Overfishing gets the blame for decline of Caribbean reef systems
By the University of California-San Diego news staff

An analysis of fossilized parrotfish teeth and sea urchin spines by researchers at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego showed that when there are more algae-eating fish on a reef, it grows faster.

In the new study, published in Nature Communications, Scripps researchers Katie Cramer and Richard Norris developed a 3,000-year record of the abundance of parrotfish and urchins on reefs from the Caribbean side of Panamá at Bocas del Toro to help unravel the cause of the current shift from coral- to algae-dominated reefs across the Caribbean. 

“Our reconstruction of past and present reefs from fossils demonstrates that when overfishing wipes out parrotfish, reef health declines,” said Ms. Cramer, a postdoctoral researcher at Scripps and lead author of the study.

Algae-eating parrotfish, like other herbivorous reef fish, play an important role in coral reef ecosystems by removing the algae that compete with corals. According to the study, the decline in herbivorous fish such as parrotfish over the last several decades from fishing is considered a main factor in the shift to more algae-dominated reefs in the Caribbean.

The Scripps researchers examined the amount and composition of fish, coral, and urchin fossils in 3 to 5-meter (10- to 33-feet) long sediment cores from three reef sites offshore of Bocas del Toro to understand the natural state of the reefs before humans began intensive fishing and land clearing, and to assess the role of these activities in recent reef declines.

The analysis was aimed at determining if coral growth rates are affected by change in the population levels of parrotfish or urchins that eat algae.

The core samples, extracted by the researchers using a portable coring system they operated underwater while scuba diving, included fossils ranging from those deposited during prehistoric times, as early as 997 B.C., to those from the modern post-industrial age up to the 1980s, representing life
Scripps Oceanography/Richard Norris
Divers extract reef sediment core off the coast of Bocas del Toro, Panamá.

on these reefs during a period of rapidly increasing human impacts to reef ecosystems.

Ms. Cramer and Norris then found that coral growth is positively driven by the abundance of parrotfish on the reefs but not affected by sea urchin abundance.

“These findings reveal that parrotfish indeed have a positive and critical role in coral health, a hotly debated issue in coral reef research that cannot be resolved with studies of modern reefs which have already been greatly altered by human activities,” said Ms. Cramer. “Using the fossil record to analyze the natural state of reefs before human disturbance, we have conclusively shown that if we want to protect corals we have to protect the parrotfish from overfishing.”

“These results confirm the critical role of parrotfish in maintaining coral-dominated reef habitat and the urgent need for restoration of parrotfish populations to enable reef persistence,” said the authors.

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Visit many rental options to actually experience the price/amenity options available in more of the areas chosen by Expats for security, comfort, and quality of life.

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A.M. Costa Rica's
Fifth news page
Salsa Lizano
San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2017, Vol. 17, No. 18
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Trump advances construction
two major oil pipelines in U.S.

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

President Donald Trump moved Tuesday to advance construction of two oil pipelines in the U.S. heartland, his latest actions to overturn the policies of former president Barack Obama.

Trump signed executive orders calling for new negotiations to allow construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, which is designed to carry Canadian oil sands crude through the U.S. to refineries near the Gulf of Mexico, and the Dakota Access pipeline sending oil from the state of North Dakota south to Illinois.

After a lengthy review, Obama rejected the Keystone project in 2015 on environmental grounds. Late last year, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers blocked the Dakota Access project and said it would look for an alternative route after the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and its supporters contended the project would threaten its drinking water and Native American cultural sites.

Trump said the U.S. would renegotiate the terms of the Keystone project with Canadian officials. He also signed an order to require that materials for the pipelines be constructed in the United States.

Trump deplored the length of time it took the U.S. to consider such projects, saying, "The regulatory process in this country has become a tangled up mess."

He signed orders to expedite reviews of environmental concerns and to determine whether or not manufacturing proposals are approved.

Trump had pledged to overturn the pipeline decisions during his lengthy run to the White House. He made good on another campaign promise Monday, withdrawing the U.S. from the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, which Obama unsuccessfully sought congressional approval for before leaving office.

The new president said he would make an appointment next week to the U.S. Supreme Court to fill the vacancy left last year with the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, a conservative stalwart on the court for 30 years.

Trump's pick would replace Obama's choice, the philosophically moderate Merrick Garland, whose confirmation was blocked by Senate Republicans until a new president took office. Trump has been considering a list of 21 conservative judges for the High Court appointment.

Trump also met Tuesday with executives from the largest American automakers, urging them to expand their manufacturing in the United States rather than overseas.

The meeting with the leaders of General Motors, Ford and Fiat Chrysler marked the second consecutive day the new president has called top corporate leaders to the White House to push for creation of more U.S. manufacturing jobs.

Trump has warned the business executives he will try to get Congress to approve a substantial border tax, perhaps 35 percent, on companies that move manufacturing out of the country and then bring their products back to the U.S. to sell to American consumers. The new president has promised to massively cut government regulations and taxes as a lure to keep American companies in the U.S.

Manufacturing plays an important role in the country's economy, the world's largest, but the sector has lost five million jobs since 2000 because of automation and manufacturers moving jobs to other countries in search of cheaper labor. Auto workers in Mexico are paid about a fifth of their U.S. counterparts or even less.

More than 12.3 million U.S. workers currently work in manufacturing, a sizable number, yet fewer than one in 10 U.S. workers are now employed in factories, compared to a quarter of the labor force in 1960.

But Trump has emphasized the sector in his first days in office after winning the presidency largely because blue collar workers in the country's heartland voted for him in key states that determined the outcome of the election.

Many of these workers have become disenchanted with the overall recovery from the country's steep recession in 2008 and 2009, left behind by the globalization of the world economy, still unemployed or working at jobs that pay less than they once earned.

Monday, Trump asked the leaders of Dow Chemical, SpaceX, the Dell computing firm, the Johnson & Johnson pharmaceutical company, aerospace giant Lockheed Martin and others to come up with a list in the next 30 days of ways to boost U.S. manufacturing.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters that as Trump has said many times, this type of multinational agreement is not in the best interest of the United States, and he’s moving quickly to advance trade policies that increase the competitiveness of the American worker and manufacturer.

Native Americans pledge
resistance to oil pipelines

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Native American activists and environmentalists say they'll fight President Donald Trump, who Tuesday signed executive orders which allow the construction of the controversial Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines stalled by President Barack Obama in 2015.

"These actions by President Trump are insane and extreme, and nothing short of attacks on our ancestral homelands as indigenous people," read a statement by the Indigenous Environmental Network. "The executive orders demonstrate that this administration is more than willing to violate federal law that is meant to protect Indigenous rights, human rights, the environment and the overall safety of communities for the benefit of the fossil fuel industry."

The group said its resistance is stronger than ever before, and it is prepared to push back at the administration's reckless decision.

Separately, Earthjustice, the nonprofit environmental law organization that represents the Standing Rock Tribe, called Trump's action anti-democratic. The group also questioned whether there is a conflict of interest at play.

According to Trump's May 2016 financial disclosure report, he held between $15,000 and $50,000 in stock in Energy Transfer Partners, down from $500,000 to $1 million the year before, and between $100,000 and $250,000 in Phillips 66. And, as the Washington Post reported in November, Energy Transfer chief executive Kelcy Warren donated $1 million to the Trump presidential campaign.

Trump has said he supports the pipelines because they benefit Americans, not because of personal financial interest. When he signed the order, he touted the number of jobs that construction of the pipeline would create.

In addition to an order speeding up construction of the pipelines, Trump signed a second memorandum requiring the secretary of the Commerce department to mandate that all steel used in pipelines be American made.

As Trump took the oath of office in Washington last Friday, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in North Dakota called for the three protest camps to be dismantled and for protesters to go home.

Roughly a thousand protesters have remained, among them, lawyer, activist and former Democratic House candidate Chase Iron Eyes, who characterized the protests and crackdown by law enforcement as an oil war going on in the middle of America.

"Trump has presented himself as a threat to all those who value constitutional rights, native nations who seek to liberate from domestic dependent nationhood which is imposed by the United States," Iron Eyes said. "Trump presents a threat to those who seek water security as a human right and who want to avoid the privatization of water."

Currently, about 1,000 protesters remain near Standing Rock, but Iron Eyes expects that number will swell.

Trump says he’s convinced
fraud was present in vote total

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The White House said Tuesday that President Donald Trump continues to believe that voting by millions of undocumented immigrants cost him a victory in the national popular vote in November's election.

"It's a belief he maintains," White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters, one day after the new president rehashed the election at a reception for congressional leaders, repeating the debunked claim that 3 million to 5 million immigrants in the country illegally voted for his opponent, Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Spicer offered no evidence of fraud. Pressed by reporters on what evidence Trump has, Spicer said Trump has believed that for a while, based on studies and information he has.

But election officials who have analyzed the November 8 vote say there were almost no indications of voter fraud certainly not on the scale Trump cites.

Several reporters at Tuesday's White House briefing questioned Spicer, asking why if the president believes there was such massive voter fraud, the administration is not launching an investigation.

Spicer said Trump is confident in his Electoral College victory and wants to focus on fulfilling his campaign promises to American voters. When pressed again on the voter fraud allegations by reporters, Spicer said a future investigation is possible.

Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan told reporters he has seen no evidence of rampant voter fraud in the 2016 election.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters voter fraud does happen, adding: "There are always arguments on both sides about how much, how frequent and all the rest."

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, one of the Republican presidential contenders Trump defeated in the run-up to the national election, called on the president to stop repeating the claim, saying that if he has evidence of fraud, he needs to disclose why he believes that.

Health choice doesn't offer
a substitute for Obamacare

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

U.S. President Donald Trump's choice for secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services faced tough questions Tuesday during his second day of confirmation hearings in the Senate amid continuing debate over the Affordable Care Act.

Trump wants to replace the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare. Nominee Tom Price has offered few details about how the Trump administration will do that.

But under intense questioning before the Senate Finance Committee, Price said there is no plan to pull the rug out from under the feet of millions of Americans who receive health care insurance coverage under Obamacare.

Price also said nobody should be priced out of the market if they have pre-existing health conditions.

Sen. Ron Wyden repeatedly asked Price if no one will be worse off by an executive order Trump signed during his first day in office that was aimed at diminishing Obamacare. Price responded, "I guarantee you that the individuals that lost coverage under the Affordable Care Act, we will commit to making certain they don't lose coverage under whatever replacement plan comes forward."

Price also faced more questions about his investments in health care companies and the impact his previous actions as a lawmaker may have had on the companies. The questions followed a Wall Street Journal report that Price traded more than $300,000 worth of shares in about 40 health-related companies over the past four years, even as he pushed legislation that could affect the value of the companies.

Later Tuesday, the Senate confirmed Trump's pick as the new U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley. The vote was 96-4.

Ms. Haley expressed support for moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a move that may fuel more violence in the Middle East. She also took a hard line against Russia, saying it cannot be trusted right now.

Also Tuesday, the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee unanimously approved Ben Carson as housing secretary. The nomination of the former Republican presidential candidate and renowned neurosurgeon now goes to the full Senate.

And Trump has asked controversial FBI Director James Comey to stay on the job.

Trump criticized Comey for his decision not to prosecute Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton for her mishandling of classified emails when she was secretary of State. Many Democrats are still angry at Comey for reviving the email investigation 10 days before the November election. They believe that was a factor in Clinton losing the election.

FBI directors are appointed for 10-year terms unless the president replaces them. President Barack Obama named Coney to the job in 2013.

The Senate has confirmed three Trump Cabinet nominees: Secretary of Defense James Mattis, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly and CIA Director Mike Pompeo.

A Senate committee vote on Sen. Jeff Sessions as attorney general has been postponed for a week to give members more time to examine new material on Sessions that the committee received Sunday. Several Democrats already have said they will vote against Sessions, saying they doubt his stated commitment to uphold civil rights laws.

IMF says life in Venezuela
is likely to worsen even more

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Venezuelans, already experiencing severe shortages of food and other consumer goods amid the country's worst economic crisis, are likely to feel even more pain as the year unfolds, the International Monetary Fund grimly predicts.

The South American country is on a path to hyperinflation, with economic activity projected to contract sharply while inflation is expected to accelerate further, Alejandro Werner, the fund's Western Hemisphere director, wrote in the organization's latest outlook for Latin America and the Caribbean.

Contributing factors include a large and growing deficit, extensive economic distortions, and a severe restriction on the availability of imports of intermediate goods, Werner wrote in the assessment posted Monday on a fund website.

In an attempt to reverse Venezuela's declining fortunes, President Nicolás Maduro on Monday announced he would appoint political ally and economist Ricardo Sanguino to lead the country's Central Bank. Sanguino is a member of the ruling United Socialist Party.

He replaced Nelson Merentes, who resigned Friday. The mathematician had investors' confidence until he oversaw a massive expansion of the money supply that helped drive inflation to a reported 800 percent last year.

Economist Jesus Casique said it's hard to gauge the exact rates of inflation or economic contraction because the central bank has the figures locked. He suggested that by keeping such data secret, the Central Bank of Venezuela has been repeatedly violating the constitution of the republic.

The country's extensive oil reserves made it Latin America's richest nation in the 1970s. But with the 2014 collapse of oil prices, consumer costs and crime have surged.

Opponents of Maduro's administration took to the streets of Caracas on Monday, the anniversary of dictator Marcos Perez Jimenez' 1958 removal and a restored democracy, to demand regional elections and a referendum on recalling Maduro. The president's supporters also staged countermarches.

Moody's says U.S. federal debt
77% of gross domestic product

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Moody's Investors Service said Tuesday that U.S. decisions on taxing and spending would have a larger than usual impact on the nation's credit profile in the near future.

The analysis said President Donald Trump's plans to cut taxes and spend more on infrastructure might increase the deficit. The combination of deficits over years is what makes up the national debt. Moody's says federal debt is equal to about 77 percent of gross domestic product, which is the sum of all goods and services a nation produces.

In a report published Tuesday, Moody's said unresolved problems with the cost of Social Security and other entitlement spending could push debt upward significantly and leave officials with less room to maneuver than in the past.

Rating agencies examine the financial health of companies and countries that issue bonds, so that lenders can assess the risk that they will not be repaid. Another rating agency, Standard and Poor's, cut the U.S. credit rating in 2011 when political bickering pushed the nation to the brink of default.

Moody's said the high level of debt comes at a time when interest rates are expected to rise, which will boost interest costs and make it more difficult for the government to cope with the next financial downturn. The report said Trump inherited 2 percent annual economic growth, a "healthy" economy and a "modest" budget deficit from his predecessor, Barack Obama.

In the November election, slow wage growth was one of the voters' major concerns. A blog post from the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta said U.S. wages grew at a 3.5 percent annual rate last year, about double the rate during the worst of the financial crisis a few years ago.

A Fed expert said wages would probably grow at a slightly higher pace this year, but would grow faster if companies and officials could find a way to boost worker productivity, which has been lagging.

George H.W. Bush moved
out of intensive care unit

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Doctors said Monday that the health of former U.S. President George H.W. Bush, who is suffering from bacterial pneumonia, is improving and that he has been moved out of the intensive care unit of a Houston hospital.

"He still has a fair amount of coughing," said Dr. Clint Doerr, a pulmonologist at Houston Methodist Hospital in Texas where the 92-year-old Bush has been hospitalized. Doerr said the 41st president still needs breathing medication and antibiotics, but that "everything is progressing."

The doctor said Bush could be released from the hospital in several days if he continues to get better.

Another doctor, Amy Mynderse, said Bush's 91-year-old wife, Barbara Bush, who had been treated in recent days at the same hospital for viral bronchitis, had recovered and was discharged Monday. She was to return later in the day to be at her husband's side. The two have been married for 72 years.
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Beautiful farm in excellent location
At only an hour's drive from San José, minutes from Guápiles, and boardering Braulio Carrillo National Park, Etlingera Farms is one heck of an amazing farm. We purchased this 77-acre farm 10 years ago after many trips, and an exhaustive search. It has a little bit of everything we were looking for and a whole lot of beauty. Our average elevation of 600 meters helps to keep Bella Vista cool year round. This farm is nearly level with a semi-modern 2-bedroom house. A fairly rustic 2-bedroom caretaker's home. And, a comfortable, 1-bedroom cabin where we stay. We have 2 large barns, a chicken coop, and a 3-stall pig pen. There are two tilapia ponds and 2 hectarias, (approximately 5 acres) of different species of bananas. The property boarders Rio Blanco in the rear and has 300 meters of public road frontage. Water, electricity, and telephone are all serviced by public utility. Etlingera Farms was reforested with several thousand wood trees of different tropical varieties. We truly believe this farm is spectacular. Our neighbors are selling for as much as $20 per meter. We are negotiable, motivated and open to offers. Our location can be found by searching Etlingera Farms on Google Maps. Our webpage is and photo album can be found at

horse ranch
Spectacular Horse Ranch and Spiritual/Yoga
Retreat Center For Sale

We invite you to a horseback tour of 187 acres of pristine farm land with breathtaking vistas, including the islands of the Gulf of Nicoya. There are multiple springs and streams, wooded areas, hard-wood and fruit trees, rolling hills with a geat variety of birds and wildlife. This property boasts the privilege of being bordered by thousands of acres of forest preserve down a steep canyon, offering its own spectacular views, which will never be developed. The many hills provide a builder an endless array of possibilities for nestling buildings in where they will have both views and privacy. The elevation of the property at 1,200 to1600 feet above sea level ensures fresh breezes and ideal year-round temperatures with a day-time average in the low 80's for open-air living. There is a ranch-style house with guest house with 8 total bedrooms, 5 modern baths, huge eat-in kitchen, landmark palm-thatched giant rancho, stable, and storage buildings. The home will come partially furnished, including beds, ample dishware for large groups, housewares, linens, washer/dryer, and fine hard-wood hand-built cabinetry. The remaining horses, 4 to 6 of them, will also convey if one wishes. We are also including a LARGE BEACH LOT in nearby Playa Bejuco. San Rafael de Nandayure is a tiny rural village nestled into the mountainside above Carmona with all the charms of the simple good life of a BLUE ZONE. Carmona is a thriving town with a clinic, restaurfants, shopping, and everything else one may need.  More information
go to  Call Darin Ricco, phone +619-846-8249 or email:


Situated 3 miles west of the capital, 8 miles from the airport. Quiet, secluded area within walking distance to a commercial center including a hotel, 6 restaurants,  next to 2 bus line stops. Car ownership is not needed. January-March air temperatures are 72 to 80 degrees F.  Apartment 1,200 sq. ft (100 sq. meters), on ground floor, indoor  patio. Large windows without bars, parquet floors.  Spacious living room-dining area, 2 bedrooms, maid's room, 2 bathrooms, 4 closets  (including walk in), fully equipped kitchen (refrigerator, washing machine,small appliances, all necessary utensils, work tools). Close covered parking space in guarded area.  Many amenities, (pictures, indoor plants, sewing machine, books, keyboard, dishes, glassware,silverware). Annual cost of maintenance about $1,350 includes water, landscaping service, garbage disposal, 24-7 security and property taxes.
PRICE $120,000
 Available for viewing:   CONTACT:  USA :  (585) 969-3413 or (585) 266-7418 or in COSTA RICA : (506) 2231-0410.   email:

Sámara titled land for sale by owner
5.7 acres. Only 150 meters to beach: $275,000
Less than $12 a meter

Fully titled, held by corporation. 150 meters to beach! Paved road frontage. Electric, phone and broadband internet at the road. Year-round water on property for well. 3 -minute drive to Sámara center and a 3-minute walk to Playa Sámara. 23,561 square meters / 5.7 acres. Property was purchased on 2005 with plans to develop 21 villas on the property. Project was halted due to real estate market collapse in 2007.  We are no longer interested in developing due to age, health and motivation!  Priced well below market value for quick sale.  More info click HERE! Email:    Phone: 506-4033-6695.

Owner Financing in San Ramon
New Construction, and Ocean View 
Brand new home with 4-plus bedrooms and 3 baths all overlooking an incredible 180-degree view of the Pacific Ocean and mountains. Located only 45 minutes from the San Jose airport and about the same to the Pacific Ocean.  The lower level could be used as a separate apartment or mother-in-law setup. Home includes HUGE master  suite, CLOSETS, custom cabinets, granite counter tops, high wood ceilings, and all in an area that is 70-80 degrees year round. Priced at $199,000. Completion date is January.  See the Virtual Tour CLICK HERE or see our site here If you would like to take a look at this amazing house, please give me a call at  Costa Rica # 506-8755-6743 or if from the States call # 509-570-1928 or email 

San Rmon
Mountain home w/million dollar view near San Ramón
Beautiful home in the mountains near San Ramón with 180-degree view of the gulf of Nicoya. 7 miles from San Ramón, 1 mile from Interamericana highway. 3,200 foot elevation so temp is 65 to 75 year around. Electric gate, private drive. house built in 2010. 2 bedrooms, 1 bath, appliances included. High-speed internet installed,  Price for sale $179,000    Contact Mike: 
Check out slide show HERE!

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For sale 5,200 m2 Escazú
Fantastic location for condo, hotel, restaurant. Large lower lot, incredible views. Flexible zoning. Easy to get liquor license. Low interest financing. Up to 40% financing / get residency through investor status / includes a corporation that is 27 years old and offshore banking account with  Banco National / possible 50/50 partnership. Super location in front of the Bosques de Escazú  Condos  / Monthly rentals available
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Costa Rica penthouse for sale
 5 -story penthouse for sale.  One of a kind penthouse on top of the Corobici Hotel in Sabana overlooking the Central Park and new Soccer Stadium in San José.  Excellent location provides you easy access to everywhere.  Other benefits include 24-hour security, 2 restaurants inside the hotel providing 1st class room service plus shared common areas in the hotel. Commercial license is in place. Seller will consider owner financing.  Asking $795K U.S.  Also available for monthly rent for $3,400 per month on an annual basis. Go to  Owners U.S. cell phone: 813 310-7402  Email

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Several profitable businesses, including a regional radio station, are for sale in Costa Rica. Certain purchases can provide the new owner with residency as well as a great lifestyle. So live your dream while making a profit. Contact:

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2017, Vol. 17, No. 18
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Latin news from the BBC up to the minute
University of Arizona/Takeshi Inomata
Archaeologists excavate the royal palace of Ceibal.

Researcher precisely date Maya collapses

By the University of Arizona news service

Using the largest set of radiocarbon dates ever obtained from a single Maya site, archaeologists have developed a high-precision chronology that sheds new light on patterns leading up to the two major collapses of the ancient civilization.

Archaeologists have long puzzled over what caused what is known as the Classic Maya collapse in the Ninth century A.D., when many of the ancient civilization's cities were abandoned. More recent investigations have revealed that the Maya also experienced an earlier collapse in the Second century A.D., now called the Preclassic collapse, that is even more poorly understood.

University of Arizona archaeologist Takeshi Inomata and his colleagues suggest in a new paper, to be published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, that both collapses followed similar trajectories, with multiple waves of social instability, warfare and political crises leading to the rapid fall of many city centers.

The findings are based on a highly refined chronology developed by Inomata and his colleagues using an unprecedented 154 radiocarbon dates from the archaeological site of Ceibal in Guatemala, where the team has worked for over a decade.

While more general chronologies might suggest that the Maya collapses occurred gradually, this new, more precise chronology indicates more complex patterns of political crises and recoveries leading up to each collapse.

"What we found out is that those two cases of collapse follow similar patterns," said Inomata, the paper's lead author and a professor in the School of Anthropology. "It's not just a simple collapse, but there are waves of collapse. First, there are smaller waves, tied to warfare and some political instability, then comes the major collapse, in which many centers got abandoned. Then there was some recovery in some places, then another collapse."

Using radiocarbon dating and data from ceramics and highly controlled archaeological excavations, the researchers were able to establish the refined chronology of when population sizes and building construction increased and decreased at Ceibal.

While the findings may not solve the mystery of why exactly the Maya collapses occurred, they are an important step toward better understanding how they unfolded.

"Radiocarbon dating has been used for a long time, but now we're getting to an interesting period because it's getting more and more precise," said Inomata.

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From Page 7:

Refinadora Costarricense de Petróleo S.A. Photo
This is the petroleum firm's facilities near Liberia

State petroleum firm posts big hike in sales

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Tourism is booming on the Pacific coast, and so is the sales of aviation fuel by the state petroleum company. Sales in 2016 were up 33 percent over the previous year.

The company, the Refinadora Costarricense de Petróleo S.A., said that nearly 1.2 million tourists passed through the Daniel Oduber Quirós airport west of Liberia in 2016. Fuel sales were made to 6,597, including 6,380 passenger jets.

The state firm has been supplying fuel at the airport for 21 years, but rapid growth has only taken place there in the last 15 years with charter and scheduled airline flights increasing each year.

For example, in 2015 there were only 888,227 air passengers using the airport, the firm said, quoting statistics from the Dirección General de Aviación Civil.

On average the state firm said it sells 200,000 liters of jet fuel each day with surges up to 350,000 liters on weekends during high seasons. It said it sold 61,596,919 during all of 2016.

The firm has had to make substantial improvements at the airport, including construction of holding tanks. A new distribution center went into service in 2014, and two 5,000-barrel storage tanks were completed in 2015.