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(506) 2223-1327       Published Thursday, Feb. 5, 2009,  in Vol. 9, No. 25       E-mail us
Jo Stuart
Real Estate
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porteadores on strike
A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas
Protest pressure

Taxi drivers and their contract driver competitors staged road-blocking protests Wednesday until Casa Presidencial brokered what it called an historic accord. Here porteadores, the contract drivers, kill time on the Circunvalación in south San José.

Our story is HERE!

Turf dispute delays action on immigration reforms
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The proposed immigration law that worries many expats will not come to an Asamblea Legislativa vote before Tuesday, if then. An internal government dispute over the future of the immigration agency has resulted in another hearing before a legislative committee.

The principal question, according to the committee, is should the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería remain part of the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad  Pública.

The alternative would be to make the immigration agency a free-standing government department. The current minister, Janina del Vecchio, favors the present arrangement, said legislative aides. Mario Zamora Cordero, the director of the immigration agency, is pushing for independence.

The Comisión de Asuntos Permanentes de Gobierno y Administración will hear both points of view Tuesday at 1 p.m.

Olga Marta Corrales, president of the commission, said that the argument for an independent agency includes the claim that Zamora has to get the minister's approval to buy just one pencil. She said this was a headache.

Ms. del Vecchio also appears to be trying to push Zamora out of the job. He was appointed in 2006 by the former security minister, Fernando Berrocal.

Recently Zamora has been the target of administrative and ethical investigations that had hidden origins. The minister was at the point of firing him, allegedly for causing too many immigration cases going to the Sala IV constitutional court, until strong political pressure caused her to reverse her course.

Zamora is believed to be a foe of corruption, and fighting such activities has been a key goal of his administration. Nevertheless, immigration is overwhelmed and dysfunctional, as many expats will attest.
The immigration bill already had been reported out of the committee to await floor action in the full legislature. But under a rule of procedure, the proposal was sent back to the committee to address other points.

Many expats are concerned about this bill because it would raise drastically the financial requirements for pensionado and rentista residencies and, according to the text, require all who have residencies now meet the new requirements when they renew their stay.

This is not something the committee said it would discuss even though many expats have made contact with lawmakers about these points.

However, changes are possible when the bill comes back to the assembly floor.

The commission said it wants to make sure the proposal contains key measures for controlling corruption by using techniques that make the process of getting residencies approved more flexible.

The immigration proposal also should serve to integrate the migrant population into the social security structure and cause them to participate in community works. The committee also will discuss the proposals to simplify the residency process and the proposal to strengthen the Policía de Migración.

Many expats who now have residency believe they are protected from any changes because their status has been "grandfathered." In fact, pensionado and rentista residencies are granted for set periods.

It is a complex legal question if the individual requirements can be changed at the end of a term of residency. If the bill passes in its present form, a Sala IV constitutional court case is certain.

Expat advocates are seeking to have a specific provision put in the bill that would protect current residencies. The bill now says that pensionado and rentista residents would have to meet new requirements when they renew their status.

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Child adoption figure
falls into hands of police

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Judicial police captured  Rodrigo Johanning, a lawyer convicted of international trafficking of children, in San Francisco de Heredia Wednesday, said the Poder Judicial.

Johanning, a lawyer, was convicted in 2006 but was allowed to remain free while his case was under appeal. The Sala III validated the sentence last year, but investigators did not know where the man was. They gave his arrest a high priority and spent three months looking for him. They located him driving his car on a public street.

Despite the search, Johanning was sending e-mails to newspapers saying that he had other appeals under way.

Johanning was convicted in the case of the nine Guatemalan babies found in an apartment in La Uruca in September 2003. Also detained, later convicted and jailed was Carlos Hernán Robles, the former manager of the failed state bank Banco Anglo. Robles also was associated for a time with Roy Taylor and his Vault investment scheme.

Investigators speculated at the time that the children were being kept here in anticipation of their adoptions in the United States and Europe. Some of the children's mothers also were arrested.

Saturday Blues fest to feature
safe parking, organizers say

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Organizers are promising safe outside parking for the Second Costa Rica International Blues Fest that takes place Saturday at the Club Cubano in Guachipelin. Escazú

One of the organizers, Darren Mora, said that a location has been found for parking and those who attend in their own vehicles will be transported to the club.

The organizers also promise a family event with children under 12 being admitted free.  They also said that outside food and drink are prohibited.

Guitar Shorty and performers from the United States and Canada are expected, including Sonny Boy Terry & Little Ray Ibarra of Houston, Texas, and V and the Holly Cats of Calgary, Canada, and the Road Dogs of San Diego, California, said Mora.

Guitar Shorty is the 2001 WC Handy Award winner for best blues album.

Also playing are the Costa Rican groups The Blind Pigs, the Blues Devils, Three for Blues, The Known Associates and the Calacas Blues, he said.

He is known to the expat community as the owner of Mora Books. He said the event was being styled after similar events in the United States.

Tickets are on sale at a number of expat locations as well as at the door.

Our readers' opinions
Why was weather forecast
so far off for cold front?

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

"The weather forecast also called for clouds and light rain on the Caribbean coast . . . ."

Ah, A.M. Costa Rica, with all due respect, you might want to find another source for your weather forecasts and prognostications. There is nothing "light" about what is going on over here today.

Up at the tip of old Cape Cod, we would call this an old fashioned "nor'easter." The rain has been coming down in sheets all morning.  The wind is howling. The trees in front of my house are swaying back and forth like the daring young man on the flying trapeze. Some gusts are actually bending the bamboo almost in half.

What I don't understand is why and how, with all the sophisticated technology and equipment meteorologists now have at their disposal, a forecast could be so horribly off. There is no way a front/storm of this force could have slipped by radar undetected.

I just hope the people up in Sixaola, who are still bouncing back from the horrors of November, are not too negatively affected.
Michael Cook
Playa Cocles
Puerto Viejo de Limón

He's not a supporter
of herbal or folk remedies

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Nary a day goes by without another study showing the lack of efficacy in herbal and other folk remedies. Including homeopathic goobledygook with actual scientific medicine is prima facie stupidity. Similar to mixing global warming with actual climate science.

It is more a money receptacle for the deluded than serious science. Serious studies have shown the vast vast majority of traditional herbal cures, acupuncture, and aroma idiocy to be useless. That it makes the deluded feel better is no reason to pay for their further delusion, or to mix folk remedies with medicine.

Foolish countries including this un-science in their socialized med plans are saying nothing less than "let them eat placebos" to patients. Witness the silly St Johns wort scandals of the Euro Health system. If these sillies wish to live in a commune sipping apricot pit juice, well groovy. How about exempting adults though.
George Chapogas
Playas del Coco

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Costa Rica
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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Feb. 5, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 25

Accord reached in long-running transportation dispute
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Taxi drivers, their competitors and others in the transport industry met for nearly eight hours Wednesday to create what the Presidencia is calling an historic accord.

Meanwhile, taxi drivers and the competitors, called porteadores, blocked major highways with their vehicles in protest. The taxi drivers wanted the porteadores run out of business. The porteadores wanted to receive assurances that this would not happen.

Both sides got what they wanted.

Taxi drivers negotiated a change in the commercial code that reaffirms their right to be the sole transporter of persons. The porteadores who are now active received recognition of their acquired right to transport individuals on contract.

Both sides agreed to end their blockades, which have been frequent events in the Central Valley.

The accord will result in a change in the codigo comercial via a measure that already is in the legislature awaiting action. Some editing will be made to the proposal.

The agreement is with the Cámara Costarricense de Porteadores, the Foro Nacional de Taxistas, the Federación Nacional de Cooperativas de Taxis, the Cámara Nacional de Transportes and the Foro Nacional de Transporte Público. The government was represented by Rodrigo Arias Sanchez, the minister of the Presidencia, Karla González, minister of Obras Públicas y Transportes, and some lawmakers.

At the same time the government promised to crack down hard on pirate taxi drivers, those who have no permit.

The problem developed because the government restricts the number of taxi permits. Many porteadores function exactly as taxi drivers except they disguise their work by
more blockades
A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas
Yellow vehicles used by porteadores line the highway and create a jam miles long.
presenting passengers with a single-page contract specifying pick-up and drop-off points. Some have real contracts with large firms to transport workers.

Porteadores usually worked for less and sometimes went to places regular taxi drivers avoided.

Weather blamed for one death, a tornado and more flooding
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A cold front that drenched the Caribbean and the northern zone also appears to have been the indirect cause of death for an off-duty policeman.

Homes were flooded in spots all along the Caribbean coast.

Wednesday night what was described as a tornado hit the stadium where Pérez Zeledón and Club Sport Herediano were to play in San Isidro de El General. The soccer game was suspended.

All day heavy winds ripped through the Central Valley. They appeared to have diminished by 11 p.m.

The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional predicted winds of up to 80 kph (49.7 mph), and the automatic weather station at Daniel Oduber airport in Liberia checked in with 81 kph (50.3 mph). The highest wind in the Central Valley was in San José where the institute clocked a gust of 51 kph (about 32 mph).

There was just a trace of rain in the Central Valley with greater amounts in the mountains, but the Caribbean was drenched again. Limón registered 104.7 mms (4.1 inches) up to 7 a.m. Wednesday and 116.7 mm (4.6 inches) from 7 a.m. through 11 p.m.

Low temperatures in the Central Valley hovered in the high 50s. The same was predicted for today and tonight.

Earthquake survivors living in tents in the mountains above Heredia and Alajuela faced high winds and temperatures that dipped to 4 degrees C about 39 F. Some were evacuated to nearby storage buildings when the highest winds hit.
The weather institute said that the winds and rain would continue through Saturday with the heaviest winds migrated to the north Pacific.

The Servicio Nacional de Guardacostas issued a warning for boats under 15 meters (49 feet) and urged captains to stay in port at least until Saturday. The warning covered both the Caribbean and the Pacific.

The Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias issued an alert for the Caribbean and the Sarapiquí area Wednesday morning.

The commission reported at midday flooding on Route 36 in Talamanca, in the Banano sector and at the entrance to La Bomba. The Río Chirripó caused flooding in Matina.

Commision officials were keeping an eye on the Río Estrella and the Río Banano. The Fuerza Pública reported at dusk that the Río Sixaola, a perennial trouble spot, was running full but had not breached its banks yet. The town of Sixaola has suffered devastating floods over the last six years, the last being in late 2008.

The policeman who died was Rafael Castillo Cruz, 61, who appears to have been swept away on his motorcycle while he was returning home Tuesday night. His body was found about 10 a.m. Wednesday in the Río Peje in the Cantón de Siquirres, Limón.

The Fuerza Púublica said that Castillo, a member of the  Grupo de Apoyo Operacional, suffered a dog bite while on duty earlier Tuesday. He received medical attention at a clinic, which delayed his return home until about 8:45 p.m.

Colleagues said they believe he tried to cross a small inlet with his motorcycle and got caught in a surge of water.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Feb. 5, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 25

Los Angeles museum has a unique solution for Latin display
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Museum collections are mostly kept behind the scenes, with only a small part of a museum's holdings on display at any time. But a new exhibit at the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History is shedding light on ancient treasures from Latin America, once hidden away in the museum's vault. The exhibit is called Visible Vault.

The exhibit was a response to two dilemmas. Extensive renovations required temporary removal of the museum's permanent exhibit on ancient Latin America. Many other artifacts were seldom seen by the public, a problem for all museums with large collections.

The solution combines a conventional exhibit with an innovation. Behind modern display cases are storage containers with more than 600 items from the museum's permanent holdings. The container fronts have been removed and the contents can be seen, but otherwise, the objects remain as they would in storage.

The exhibit showcases ancient treasures from Latin America, from such well known civilizations as the Aztecs, Mayans and Incas, and lesser-known ones, including the Toltec, Mixtec, Moche and Nazca peoples. The objects include an Aztec stone carved as a human skull, gold Inca drinking vessels and a ceramic pot from Teotihuacan, the ancient site in Mexico, with its front molded in the shape of a jaguar.

Curator Karen Wise says many visitors have been taught that civilization started in the ancient Near East, Greece and Rome. But she says that's only part of the story. "Civilization actually came out of lots of different places and the Americas not the least of them — and Mesoamerica and the Andes were really important locations," she said.

From Mexico through the Andes Mountains of South America, civilizations have flourished during the past 3,000 years. The objects on display give glimpses of everyday life of many of these peoples. The link between ancient and modern cultures is seen in one Mayan figure.

"This is a little ceramic figure of a woman who is weaving, using a traditional back-strap loom, that is, a weaving loom that is strung onto a large stick and has a piece that actually goes right around her back," said Ms. Wise. "And what you'll find today, if you go to the Maya regions to these small villages, you'll still see women weaving using this mechanism."

Ms. Wise says decorations on ceramics show that many foods that are common today were first cultivated by these ancient peoples. "The tomato comes from the Americas. The potato comes from the Americas. The beans come from the Americas. All of these things that
Loas Angeles latin exhibit
Can't make it to Los Angles for the exhibit? The museum has many of its holdings online at this LINK!

are part of our regular diet. Nobody really thinks about it, but they were domesticated right here in the Americas, along with corn, chilies, of course, and many other things that are just part of the regular worldwide diet. Everybody thinks of the potato as being Irish. It's not. It's from Peru."

Los Angeles has a huge immigrant population. It is nearly half Hispanic, with large populations from Mexico and Central America. Ms. Wise says visitors from those places find a special connection to these ancient artifacts. "Many of them tell us that they are thrilled to see the materials from their home countries, hometowns, their grandparents' home states here on display and beautifully depicted for everybody to study."

Visitors who have traveled to ancient sites in Latin America also find a connection with these objects. Fiona Lee, 8, who is at the museum with her family, has been to Mexico and is reminded of objects that she saw there in museums.

"And I really like history," she said. "And the Mayans and the Aztecs are my favorite."

Fiona's father, Chris, says the display is unusual and takes some getting used to. He notes that some objects are shown with full descriptions, but others are unexplained, seen in storage containers in the background.

At each end of the exhibit hall, however, visitors can get additional information from a computer display, to learn more about the items in the museum's Visible Vault.

Just call it an administration restaurant stimulus plan
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The head of an anti-poverty housing agency who feted other politicians in a $1,100 lunch at an Escazú restaurant has quit.

He is Ennio Rodríguez, who was head of the Banco Hipotecario de la Vivienda, which is supposed to provide loans for low-income individuals who wish to buy or build housing.
Rodríguez spent 627,000 colons at Cerutti in Escazú last September. Among the guests who enjoyed $60-a-bottle red wine and champaign was the current housing minister, Clara Zomer. Opposition legislators have called for her dismissal. Another guest was José Antonio Li, head of the Instituto Mixto de Ayuda Social, another anti-poverty agency.

Rodríguez said that he repaid the cost of the lunch out his own pocket. The event was billed as a working lunch.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Feb. 5, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 25

A.M. Costa Rica
users guide

This is a brief users guide to A.M. Costa Rica.

Old pages
Each day someone complains via e-mail that the newspages are from yesterday or the day before. A.M. Costa Rica staffers check every page and every link when the newspaper is made available at 2 a.m. each week day.

So the problem is with the browser in each reader's computer. Particularly when the connection with the  server is slow, a computer will look to the latest page in its internal memory and serve up that page.

Readers should refresh the page and, if necessary, dump the cache of their computer, if this problem persists. Readers in Costa Rica have this problem frequently because the local Internet provider has continual problems.

The A.M. Costa Rica search page has a list of all previous editions by date and a space to search for specific words and phrases. The search will return links to archived pages.

A typical edition will consist of a front page and four other newspages. Each of these pages can be reached by links near the top and bottom of the pages.

Five classified pages are updated daily. Employment listings are free, as are listings for accommodations wanted, articles for sale and articles wanted. The tourism page and the real estate sales and real estate rentals are updated daily.

Advertising information
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A.M. Costa Rica makes its monthly statistics available to advertisers and readers. It is HERE! 

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

Visiting us
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Helicopters in Cali await
release of sixth hostage

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A Red Cross humanitarian mission has arrived in Cali, Colombia, in preparation for the expected release of a politician who has been held by leftist rebels for more than six years.

The mission arrived in two Brazilian helicopters, which have been used this week to ferry newly freed hostages out of the Colombian jungle. The mission Thursday is expected to retrieve Sigifredo López, who is the last of six hostages the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia has promised to release.

The guerrillas abducted López in April 2002, along with 11 other regional deputies from the Valle del Cauca departmental assembly. The others were killed in June 2007 during an exchange of gunfire between rebels and an unknown group. Colombian officials say the rebels killed the deputies when another rebel group approached without warning.

López's expected release would come two days after the guerrilla group freed former governor Alan Jara, who was snatched from a United Nations vehicle in 2001. Four other hostages were freed Sunday.
The guerrillas are believed to be holding hundreds of people in jungle hideouts for ransom or political leverage. The rebel group has been at war with the Colombian government since the 1960s.

Last year, Colombian soldiers posing as members of a humanitarian group freed 15 hostages, including French-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt and three American citizens.

Raúl Castro visits Angola

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Cuban President Raúl Castro has arrived in Angola on a three-day visit.

Castro arrived in the capital, Luanda, Wednesday evening following a week-long visit to Russia. Angola's foreign ministry says the trip underlines friendship and cooperation between the two countries.

The Cuban leader is due to address a special session of parliament and meet with his Angolan counterpart, Jose Eduardo dos Santos.

Jo Stuart
Real Estate
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