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(506) 2223-1327         Published Monday, Jan. 31, 2011,  in Vol. 11, No. 21           E-mail us
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Immigration seeks comments on new regulations
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Proposed regulations that supplement the new immigration law have been posted to the La Gaceta Web site, and everyone is being invited to submit comments, said the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería.

This is yet another twist in the often-delayed procedure. Casa Presidencial said two weeks ago that the regulations would be studied and signed by President Laura Chinchilla.

It turns out that officials are citing a section of administration law that requires seeking public opinions. Comments can come from individuals or institutions, said the immigration department. But the deadline is Feb. 10.

Those who wish to comment on the regulations can e-mail opinions or comments to this immigration address:

The immigration agency said it would not accept anonymous comments and asked that those who comment specify which article or section is related to their submission.

The regulations are being carried only on the Web page of the La Gaceta official newspaper under an agreement reached this month between the Imprenta Nacional, which puts out the official daily, and the legislature. The idea is to save money by not publishing to paper.

Unfortunately, the La Gaceta Web site appeared to have trouble over the weekend and the
La Gaceta

material was not available. Many governmental
Web sites are not fully in service outside of business hours.

Expats have been anxious to see the regulations,
which cover the day-to-day activities of  immigration workers. Among the concerns of some expats is the treatment that will be afforded to so-called perpetual tourists, those who live in Costa Rica but decline to seek official residency.

The new immigration law also created a number of different categories for visitors, and this will reduce the numbers of persons who are listed as tourists. Until now, most persons who entered the country as sports figures, business people or similar came in as tourists. Now there are categories for these types of visitors.

Mario Zamora, who moved from immigration directory to vice minister supervising the agency, also has made some comments that concerned expats. Their concerns will either be reinforced or mitigated by the texts of the regulations.

Although it has been nearly a year since the law went into force, the immigration legal department has been working full time on the regulations. The previous immigration law passed during the Abel Pacheco presidency came into effect and was superseded without regulations associated with it ever being published.

Parrita is going to the mules for two weekends
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Parrita's annual mule festival starts Thursday for a two-week run.

This is the first year that the central Pacific community will benefit from the Autopista del Sol, which dramatically cuts travel time from the Central Valley.

The Festival Nacional de las Mulas is at the community's fairgrounds. It is sponsored by the Asociación para el Bienestar del Cantón de Parrita and Instituto Costarricense de Turismo. The
association promises adequate parking and security.

Early residents of Parrita on the Pacific Coast used the mule as their primary work animal to plow fields and transport their crops to market, organizers have said, so the tradition still runs strong. There will be mule races and other events associated with the animal. The festival involves more than mules. There is a queen contest, bullfighting, food booths, dances, parades and other typical events in local fiestas.

There also is a tractor rally, organizers said. The event wraps up Feb. 13.

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Search goes on for German
believed lost in Pacific

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Cruz Roja said Friday that there have been no new developments in a search for a missing German citizen.

They said the man, identified as Michel Bedge, about 40 years old, is believed to have been lost in the surf more than a week ago. That happened at Playa Carete, which is just east of the boundary with Parque Nacional Corcovado on the Osa Peninsula.

Residents reported finding the man's belongings on the beach Jan. 23. A search has been conducted since then.

Rescue teams from Puerto Cortés, Laurel and Ciudad Neilly were involved. The Cruz Roja said the search would continue for a few days more but then would be terminated if no clues were found.

Heavy trucks are allowed
to use restricted bus lane

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The transport ministry is changing the rules again on the Autopista General Cañas bus lanes. The bus lanes are expected to be in service at the Río Virilla bridge.

Traffic officials already have issued more than 1,000 tickets for drivers using the lanes designated for buses. These are the outside lanes on the highway. Now heavy trucks of more than six tons are being invited to use the bus lanes. This is supposed to be the rule for the next 15 days.

The Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes managed to open up four lanes at the bridge over the weekend. That has eased to some extent the massive traffic jams that have been a regular event while workmen repair the bridge.

The speed limit still is just 30 kph at the bridge. Transport officials said that the heavy trucks still must comply with the hour restrictions that prohibit large trucks during rush hours of from 6 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. and from 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.

More rocks hit vehicles
on Autopista del Sol

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

More rocks tumbled onto the Autopista del Sol and crashed into a motorcycle and a car, the highway concessionaire reported. The mishaps were in Esparza at the west end of the highway. Previous rock slides took place near Atenas where one person suffered fatal injuries.

The latest incident was at 5:30 a.m. Saturday. Four persons, two from the motorcycle and two from the car, were hospitalized.

Crash claims life in Cóbano

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two motorcycles collided Thursday night in Cóbano on the Nicoya peninsula and a 42-year-old man with the last name of Muñoz died, said the Judicial Investigating Organization.

Our reader's opinion
Letter complaining of bias
was, itself, full of bias

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

The commentary piece by Mr. Ken Morris last Tuesday is biased and skewed. He accuses A.M. Costa Rica as spinning the story in favor of Costa Rica and then he proceeds to spin his own story in favor of Nicaragua. His eight points that he lists in Nicaragua’s favor conveniently leave out important facts, many of which were included in the A.M. Costa Rica article/piece. He also suffers from a case of “piling on” throwing everything and anything into the mix in an effort to discredit Costa Rica and the A.M. Costa Rica article and show Nicaragua in the best possible light.

I do agree that in general, that news articles now days are a mixture of news, opinion and sometimes entertainment mixed in as well for good measure. So where is that not true these days? Mr. Morris, get with the times, wake up and smell the coffee. Mr. Morris doesn’t like certain words and phrases used by A.M. Costa Rica such as “invasion,” “Nicaraguan regime” and “beefed up security” which accurately characterized the situation to the readers. So if the tables were turned and Costa Rica stationed troops and dredges north of the San Juan and commenced cutting a path to the ocean north of the San Juan river what would he then call that? A disputed border crossing with no apparent objective? I don’t think so. And if in response, Nicaragua augmented the local police force and started modernizing its infrastructure in the area so that police could get from point A to point B, how would Mr. Morris characterize that? And I’m sorry if Mr. Morris doesn’t like the word “regime” applied to Nicaragua. If the shoe fits, wear it.

He criticizes Costa Rica’s Foreign Minister René Castro for mounting a worldwide public relations tour. He then incorrectly concludes that Costa Rica must therefore have a losing case before the international court. He fails to see the maneuver as complimentary to a winning case.

He goes on to criticize A.M. Costa Rica for reporting on the fears of the locals in the area about how the dredging operations will cause harm by diverting river flow. Accurate reporting which Mr. Morris doesn’t like apparently because it puts Nicaragua once again in a bad light.

With his eighth and final point Mr. Morris comes full circle and criticizes Costa Rica for not beefing up the border sooner conveniently leaving out the point reported by A.M. Costa Rica that Costa Rica does not have the right to police the area via the San Juan. According to Mr. Morris, Costa Rica is dammed if it does and dammed if it doesn’t.

I guess if it were up to Mr. Morris, Costa Rica should just cede the whole area now to Nicaragua, no need for honoring treaties or international law.
David Sisson

Find out what the papers
said today in Spanish

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Here is the section where you can scan short summaries from the Spanish-language press. If you want to know more, just click on a link and you will see and longer summary and have the opportunity to read the entire news story on the page of the Spanish-language newspaper but translated into English.

Translations may be a bit rough, but software is improving every day.

When you see the Summary in English of news stories not covered today by A.M. Costa Rica, you will have a chance to comment.

This is a new service of A.M. Costa Rica called Costa Rica Report. Editor is Daniel Woodall, and you can contact him HERE!

From the Costa Rican press
News items posted Monday through Friday by 8 a.m.
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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Jan. 31, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 21
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To stop the car or not stop, that is the question for expats
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Motorists have to make a choice when they are flagged down by police officers, either Fuerza Pública or Tránsito. The choice is whether to obey the signals of the officer.

Sometimes the policeman really is a crook in a uniform. There have been several robberies in the last two months in which the criminals dressed as policemen.

That was the dilemma facing the driver of an armored car Friday on the highway near Siquirres. Limón. About 3:50 p.m. two officers of the Policía de Tránsito signaled the man to pull over the armored car. They said later that he illegally crossed a double yellow line.

What was going on in the man's head will eventually come out if there is a trial, but police said he pulled out a 9-mm. pistol and fired a warning shot in the air. Then he tried to drive away. The traffic officers said they blocked the way with a patrol car.

Soon it was obvious that the policemen were real because four Fuerza Pública officers on motorcycles quickly showed up and took the driver and two others in the armored car into custody. They confiscated five .38-caliber pistols, the security ministry said.

The driver was identified by the last names of Valdemar Umaña. Two guards in the vehicle have the last names of Cartín Guillén and Sánchez Montenegro. Still, police said, the driver refused to get out of the vehicle until a prosecutor arrived.

For the average motorist car robberies can happen in a flash. A crook shows up at the car window with a gun. That is called a bajanazo because the crook makes the driver get out. Some vehicles have a security device that will shut off the engine 100 yards down the road if such a robbery takes place.

One expat reports he fired a warning shot on the Autopista General Cañas when the vehicle he had rented at the airport developed a flat tire. That is a traditional way crooks get to rob or steal from motorists, mostly tourists. This expat happened to be a resident with a gun 
police traffic stop
A.M. Costa Rica graphic

permit. So when the crooks drew near in another car, they
saw the man produce the pistol and heard a warning shot from a .357 magnum. They left quickly.

When confronted by a possible policeman on a lonely stretch of country road, some security experts advise continuing to drive at a slow speed to the nearest police or fire station. For tourists, such locations may be hard to find.

Compounding the problem is that traffic police frequently set up checkpoints on lonely stretches of rural roads.

Those with cell telephones sometimes can verify quickly if the policeman is real or a crook in disguise.

Only about a third of smaller firms export, study says
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Just 34 percent of the small- and medium-sized companies in Costa Rica export their products, according to a new study.

The statistic comes from José Martínez, director of the  Escuela de Administración de Empresas at the Instituto Tecnológico de Costa Rica in Cartago.

Martínez just obtained his doctorate from the Universidad de Valencia in Spain with a dissertation based on this topic.

He was interested in what factors encourage and what factors are barriers to exportation. He reported that management attitude is important, as well as the channels of distribution and information about the international market.

Of course, the characteristics of the product are key, also.
The topic has greater relevance now that the Central American Free Trade Treaty allows Costa Rican firms to compete on equal footing in other countries. The institute, which is one of Costa Rica's public universities, said that Martínez cited the international vision of a company's executives as well as access to a data base of potential foreign customers.

Martínez also said that the company also has to be savvy in financing their exports as well as being able to compete in the international market. The exchange rate is one of the areas about which company executives must consider, he said.

The firms that do export have an average of 20 years experience, he said he found. His work was based on a sample of small- and medium-sized companies in all the country's provinces, the institute said.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Jan. 31, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 21

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Agents say country was keystone in drug smuggling plot

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Security officials say it was a tip to the anti-drug telephone line that led them to a gang that recruited Costa Rican fishermen to carry drugs from Ecuador to México and Guatemala.

In raids Saturday the Policía de Control de Drogas detained five Colombians and a Costa Rican woman. They said that the drug gang set up headquarters in Costa Rica but that none of the drugs ever actually entered Costa Rican territory.

Raids took place Saturday morning and afternoon in Barrio 20 de Noviembre in Puntarenas, in la Uruca, Hatillo and San Pablo de Heredia.

A Colombian man who has residency here, identified by the last names of Flores Palacios, was identified as the suspected leader of the organization.

A man identified as Torres Mosquera also was held. He entered the country illegally at Sixaola March 16, 2009, and unsuccessfully sought residency based on having a Costa Rican son, said agents.

Two women with the last names of Mosquera Mosquera also were held. They are sisters who were said to be in charge of the distribution of money and the importation of money from outside the country.

A man identified by the last names of Hinestroza Largacha also was held. He was involved in transporting money from Colombia, agents allege.

A Costa Rican woman identified by the last names of Solís Esquivel was detained.

She is the mother of a 3-year-old who has Flores Palacios as a father, police said.

Agents said they had been working on the case but did not know the names of those involved until the tipster made the call in June.
arrested man
Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía
y Seguridad Pública photo
One of the Colombian men is escorted on the way to jail

In December agents detained one of the Mosquera women after they found $40,570 in her purse, they said. That was in Atenas. Last Tuesday police stopped Hinestroza and Ms. Solís at a checkpoint in Villa Briceño de Golfito and discovered $17,028, they said.

In neither case were the individuals jailed. Instead judges required them to sign in with prosecutors every 15 days, agents said.

Agents also said they were investigating the illegal entry of other Colombians who were used for monitoring of the Costa Rican fishing boats.

Boats are a preferred method of smuggling drugs because there are so many of them. Agents said that fishing boat captains received large amounts of cash to carry the drugs north.

Coca production linked to deforestation in new report

By the Stony Brook University news services

Scientists from Stony Brook, New York, University are reporting new evidence that cultivating coca bushes, the source of cocaine, is speeding up destruction of rain forests in Colombia and threatening the region’s hotspots of plant and animal diversity. The findings, which they say underscore the need for establishing larger protected areas to help preserve biodiversity, appear in the American Chemical Society's journal Environmental Science & Technology in an article entitled “Forests and Drugs: Coca-Driven Deforestation in Tropical Biodiversity Hotspots.”

Liliana M. Dávalos, assistant professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolution at Stony Brook, and colleagues note that the pace of deforestation in Colombia has accelerated over the past 20 years, even as population growth has slowed and the economy has shifted from agriculture to other revenue sources. 

This increase in deforestation overlaps with an increase in the cultivation of coca for cocaine production, and the country accounted for 75 per cent of the world’s coca in 2000.

Earlier reports found that direct deforestation from coca was surprisingly small, with as little as 150 square kilometers (about 37,000 acres) of forests replaced by coca each year by 2005. Since rainforests contain about 10 percent of the world’s plant and animal species — some of which become the basis of new medicines — deforestation represents a serious threat to global biodiversity.

With studies suggesting that coca cultivation contributes indirectly to deforestation, the scientists set out to further document this impact.
cocoa production
Sistema Integrado de Monitoreo de Cultivos
Ilícitos/María Ximena Gualdrón

An air image from from Nariño, in southern Colombia featuring recent clearings, abandoned clearings, and coca plants.

Their analysis of data from 2002-2007 on the effects of coca cultivation on deforestation of rain forests in Colombia identified several factors that boosted the likelihood that rain forests would be destroyed. In southern Colombia, a forest close to newly developed coca farms, for instance, was likely to be cut, as was land in areas where much of the farmland was devoted to coca.

This is the first time the indirect impact on deforestation from cultivation destined for the global cocaine market has been quantified across South America’s biodiversity hotpots.

The Stony Brook University scientists also showed that designating protected areas, regions that are set-aside for special protection for environmental reasons, reduced forest destruction in coca-growing areas.  Establishing larger protected areas in the region could help control deforestation and preserve biodiversity, the report suggests.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Jan. 31, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 21

Medical vacations in Costa Rica

Mrs. Clinton urges candidate
in Haiti's election to quit

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says the United States has no plans to suspend aid to earthquake-ravaged Haiti.

On a one-day visit to the Caribbean nation Sunday, Mrs. Clinton said the U.S. wants Haiti to adopt the internationally backed solution to an election dispute and to drop the president's chosen successor from the second round of elections that is set for March 20.

Monitors from the Organization of American States have urged outgoing President Rene Preval's preferred candidate, Jude Celestin, to withdraw from the runoff election. Those monitors have said they found evidence of widespread fraud in Celestin's favor, in preliminary results from the first-round of voting on Nov. 28.

Those results showed Celestin securing second place, narrowly qualifying him for the run-off ahead of the apparent third-place finisher, popular singer Michel Martelly. The election front-runner, former Haitian first lady Mirlande Manigat, was in first place.

Mrs. Clinton is in Haiti to try to mediate the crisis through talks with Preval and three candidates vying to succeed him.

The publication of preliminary results last month triggered days of violent protests by opposition supporters angered by what they saw as vote-rigging by Haiti's government.

Haiti's ruling party has urged Celestin to pull out of the presidential race, but he has not confirmed his exit. Haiti's election commission has said it will publish final results of the disputed first round of voting on Wednesday.

Haiti is struggling to recover from last year's earthquake that left more than 200,000 people dead and 1 million others homeless.

Press group raps Cuba
for repression of journalist

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The Inter American Press Association has assailed the Cuban government for having arrested independent journalist Guillermo Fariñas, and it called for an end to repression and for the release of other independent journalists still in prison.

Fariñas, a psychologist as well as journalist, was arrested Thursday for the second time in less than 24 hours along with a dozen other dissidents. The previous day Fariñas and his companions were held for seven hours at a police station in Santa Clara province, east of Havana, accused of public scandal following a street protest staged in solidarity with a family that has been evicted from its home. He was released Friday morning.

Gonzalo Marroquín, editor of the Guatemala City, Guatemala, newspaper Prensa Libre, declared, “We continue being witness to the Cuban regime’s repression, which has not lessened one bit despite the fact that the government propaganda seeks to stress how conditions of life have changed – it is all a lie; this unmasks the government’s intolerance of individual and collective freedoms.”  He is president of the Inter American Press Association.

The international organization Human Rights Watch had said in a report earlier this week on the state of human rights that “Cuba continues to be the only country in Latin America where almost all forms of political dissent are stifled” and that “there are many journalists, human rights defenders and dissidents that remain in prison and the government is using brief and arbitrary arrests to punish its critics.”

Fariñas, 49, has staged 23 anti-government hunger strikes. He engaged in one last year from Feb. 24 to July 8 in demand for the release of 26 ailing political prisoners and in protest at the government’s having allowed opponent Orlando Zapata to die after staging a hunger strike while he was in jail. Fariñas was recently awarded the European Parliament’s 2010 Sajarov Prize for Freedom of Thought.
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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Jan. 31, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 21

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Latin American news
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U.N. agency praises law
in México on refugees

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The United Nations refugee agency has welcomed the entry into force of a new law in México on the protection of refugees and asylum-seekers that now gives the country a legal framework that complies with international standards in this area.

The law, which was formally signed by President Felipe Calderón Wednesday, was drafted in 2009 by the Mexican Refugee Commission with technical support from the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

México signed the 1951 Refugee Convention and its protocol in 2000 and has a history of protecting asylum-seekers and refugees, according to the agency.

However, until now, the country lacked a specific legal framework as previous laws did not comply with international standards, it added.

The new “Law on Refugees and Complementary Protection” incorporates Mexico’s good practices on refugees, such as permission to work, access to health services including health insurance, access to education and revalidation of studies.

It includes definitions of a refugee as per the 1951 Convention relating to the status of refugees as well the Cartagena Declaration on Refugees adopted in 1984. It also considers gender as grounds for persecution.

México will grant complementary protection for people not considered as refugees but whose life has been threatened or could be at risk of torture, ill treatment, or other forms of cruel inhuman treatment.

This law conforms to international law and standards, as it includes the principle of no forced returns, non-discrimination, and no penalty for irregular entry, the family unity principle, the best interests of the child, and confidentiality, among others,” said Andrej Mahecic, a high commission spokesperson.

Mexico continues receiving refugees from Latin American countries, mainly from Colombia, Haiti, El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, but also extra-regional refugees from Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sri Lanka, Iraq, Iran, Nepal, Nigeria, and Myanmar, among others.

Venezuelan arsenal blast
kills at least one person

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Venezuelan officials say one person was killed and several others injured Sunday by a fire and a series of powerful explosions at an arms and munitions depot.

The arsenal is located about 100 kilometers west of the capital, Caracas, near the city of Maracay. 

Authorities say police and soldiers evacuated some 10,000 nearby residents early Sunday as a precautionary measure.  The cause of the fire was not immediately clear.

The governor of Aragua state had earlier said some 40 people were injured by shrapnel and exploding bullets.  But he later said the number of casualties appeared to be much lower.

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