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(506) 2223-1327               Published Friday, Feb. 5, 2010,  in Vol. 10, No. 25      E-mail us
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Candidates begin election day with Mass and hugs
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
(posted at 12:30 p.m. Sunday)
The major candidates for president began the day with a Roman Catholic Mass Sunday.

Only Ottón Solís was absent from the religious ceremony at the Catedral Metropolitana in San José because he attended Mass in San Isidro de El General where he grew up.

In San José, the candidates hear Hugo Barrantes, the archbishop, called upon the winner to take care of the poor.

Since Vatican II, there has been a time during the Roman Catholic Mass where those attending shake hands and sometimes share a kiss of peace.  At that point Sunday, the candidates, standing in the front row of the cathedral, turned and hugged each other in turn. Eugenio Trejos of Frente Amplio shared a hug with Laura Chinchilla of the Partido Liberación Nacional on his left. She in turn saluted Luis Fishman to her left. He is the candidate of Partido Unidad Social Cristiana.  Also sharing the friendly moment were Otto Guevara of Movimiento Libertario, Oscar López of Partido Sin Exclusión  and Walter Muñoz of Partido Integración Nacional.

Then supporters of the candidates came forward in the church and joined in the hugs.

Ms Chinchilla and Trejos later walked to the altar and received Holy Communion from the hands of Barrantes. Guevara also took communion a few
minute later with his fiancée. They they left for various points in their own motorcades to continue to rally the vote.

The Mass on the morning of election day is a tradition.

The day was sunny, and there appeared to be no weather problems associated with getting to the more than 6,000 polling places in the country.

Major parties and some local and regional ones set up tents and displays at the polling places to provide information on their candidates. The bulk of the voting was in schools.

Saturday and Saturday night saw hundreds of vehicles decked with flags of the competing parities move through the streets of major population centers. Partido Acción Ciudadana, the party of Solís, even had a repainted bus with a representation of his face.

Ms. Chinchillaappears to be the only candidate with the chance of getting the necessary 40 percent of the popular vote in the first round of voting, based on the results of opinion polls. If that happens, expats can expect delays as her happy supporters take to the streets to celebrate.

The Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones has instituted reporting procedures so that results can come in quicker. Some television reports will start to give predictions after 7 p.m. based on their own exit polls.

Even cell phones will try to get out the vote Sunday
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Even non-citizen expats with cell telephones will be getting a message encouraging them to vote. The Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones and the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad have agreed to send a text message to each of the two million cell phones alerting the user that they can find a voting location by called #120 for free.

Expats who cannot vote also will benefit from free tolls on all highways except the Autopista del Sol from 10 p.m. Saturday to 6 a.m. Monday. The tolls have been lifted to make it easy for Costa Ricans to get to the polls.

For many expats the big contest Sunday will be between the Indianapolis Colts and the New Orleans Saints. This is the first year that a dry law is not in effect, and the Superbowl parties are many. The kickoff is at 5:25 p.m. Costa Rica time.
The game should be winding up about the time the first returns are reported in the nation's presidential and legislative elections.

Laura Chinchilla of Partido Liberación Nacional appears to be the only candidate with the chance of getting the necessary 40 percent of the popular vote in the first round of voting. If that happens, expats can expect delays as her happy supporters take to the streets to celebrate.

The Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones has instituted reporting procedures so that results can come in quicker from the more than 6,000 polling places. Some television reports will start to give predictions after 7 p.m. based on their own exit polls.

The handicappers in the basement of A.M. Costa Rica make the following predictions: Saints by 7 and Ms. Chinchilla with 43 percent.


Two teens detained as multiple contract killers
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rican officials are wrestling tonight with how juvenile offenders should be treated after two teens have been detained as repeat hired gunmen.

Costa Rica subscribes to a dual justice system, one for adults and one for juveniles. As Jorge Rojas notes, juveniles never serve more than 15 years in prison regardless of the crime. He is the director of the Judicial Investigating Organization.

The world has changed since Jane Addams, her Hull House initiative and the progressives of the period organized to create the first U.S. juvenile justice system in 1899. The idea was that youthful violators could be redeemed. That is why many jurisdictions today keep the names of juvenile offenders secret and close the judicial hearings. The belief is that youngsters are the product of their environment, and by changing the environment, the young offenders can be put on the correct path. Secrecy severes the link with the old environment.

By the early 20th century Chicago, youthful crimes involved window-breaking and petty theft. The progressives did not have hard-core contract murderers, as agents paint the two youngsters caught Thursday.

The idea of using young killers to avoid harsh penalties is not new to law enforcement, although the case described Thursday is the first here. Such crimes have been reported for years in the U.S. inner city drug wars where youngsters as young as 8 years were enlisted as killers.

The allegations Thursday were that the two youngsters, 16 and 17, had offered their services for about 200,000 colons to eliminate individuals on behalf of others. That is about $350. The Judicial Investigating Organization said the 17 year old was linked to the following crimes:
• the murder of a man named Garcia who was killed in Los Cuadros de Goicoechea Aug. 5;

• the murder of a man with the last name of Lara Sept. 18 in Los Cuadros;

• The attempted murder of a woman with the last name of Jiménez Oct. 13 in Los Cuadros, and

* the murder of a man named Nuñez, who was killed Jan. 26 in Guápiles. Two other persons, identified by the last names of Oviedo and Aguilar, were wounded in that shooting.

Both teens are linked to the following slayings, said investigators:

• The murder of a man with the last name of Córdoba Sept. 9 in Cuatro Reinas de Tíbas;

• the murder of a man with the last name of Parales in León XIII Sept. 10;

• the murder of a man with the last name of Barquero Sept. 25 in León XIII, and

• the murder of a man with the last name of Zapata at his home in Puntarenas Sept. 27.

The Zapata case drew a lot of media attention because investigators found a box with $37,000 in cash in his home after the killing. They were mystified about the motive for the crime when it was clear robbery was not the reason.

The two teens were detained early Thursday in León XIII. They also are suspects in a long string of robberies that have taken place in their neighborhood.

Many jurisdictions have procedures for elevating the major crimes of juveniles to adult court, but that is not the case here.


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San José, Costa Rica Friday, Feb. 5, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 25

Costa Rica Expertise
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A.M. Costa Rica's professional directory is where business people who wish to reach the English-speaking community may invite responses. If you are interested in being represented here, please contact the editor.


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Officials may jack up tolls
to cut autopista traffic


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Highway officials seem to have grossly underestimated the traffic flow on the new San José-Caldera autopista. Now they are floating the idea to jack up the tolls during peak hours to cut down on the number of cars.

The officials from the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes also said that curiosity seekers overwhelmed the highway last weekend in numbers that were disproportionate to anticipated use.

The minister said that it expected a daily volume of just 2,730 vehicles at the Orotina toll plaza, but that each day last weekend there was an average of 26,365. That is some 963 percent more than expected, the ministry said.

The 22,897 vehicles in Atenas were computed to be 1,173 more than expected, the ministry said.

The ministry said that officials want to see how the traffic flow continues at the highway before taking steps such as ordering the concession holder of the Autopista del Sol to open the toll booths when congestion develops. They said they wanted to wait a month before making any decisions. But they added that one solution might be an increase in the tolls. Some delays were for hours over the weekend, and lines at tool booths were miles long.

This is the highway that is a key link to the Pacific coast and was designed to cut nearly an hour off the old route. However, the highway is two-lane except in places where passing lanes have been installed.

Constitutional court ends
bishops' oversight of teachers


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Sala IV constitutional court has thrown out a requirement that the Roman Catholic Church must approve teachers who give religious instruction in the public schools.

The law said that the Conferencia Episcopal, that is the organization of the nation's Roman Catholic bishops, had to approve public school teachers who would give classes in religion, which is a requirement of the curriculum.

The bishops were known to favor teachers who had attended special classes set up by the church and who led lives that did not violate church law. Teachers who were divorced were not favored, some said. The Sala IV action was by a split vote.

Monteverde school plans
10K for financial aid


Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The Cloud Forest School in Monteverde, known locally as the Centro de Educación Creativa, is hosting the fourth annual Carrera Creativa  Feb. 13 to raise money for its financial aid fund. 

The course is a creative and challenging 10K loop through Monteverde, said the school. It will begin at 9 a.m. in nearby Santa Elena. Registration is 6,000 colons, about $11.

The fee includes a t-shirt. The school promises prizes for age-group winners. Following the race, there will be food, live music and games, the announcement said..

Registration begins at 7:30 a.m. the day of the race. There will also be a 5K walk that follows a different route through the center of Monteverde, beginning at 8:30 a.m., the school announcement said. More information is available by e-mail to support@cloudforestschool.org

Cell phone auction delayed

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The nation's telecom regulator confirmed Thursday that the competition for cell telephone concessions would be delayed. Today was the day when the bidding requirements were to be made known.

The agency, the Superintendencia de Telecomunicaciones, said that the delay was so that other agencies could study the documents. But Ottón Solís had raised a political issue involving the allocation of the concessions for spectrum.  He is a candidate in Sunday's election for the Partido Acción Ciudadana.

Man holds off cops in city

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A man sought by police on a warrant declined to leave a hotel room Thursday and engaged in a standoff with officers for two hours. The drama played out at the Hotel Colón on Calle 8 at Avenidas 5 and 7. Officers declined to invade the hotel room because the man was accompanied by a woman and claimed to have a gun, said investigators. The man surrendered shortly after noon. But the street was blocked for two hours.

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A.M. Costa Rica 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 weekday.

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.

Searching
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.

Newspages
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.

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

Advertising information
A summary of advertising rates and sizes are available for display and classifieds.

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

Visiting us
Directions to our office and other data, like bank account numbers are on the about us page.

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San José, Costa Rica Friday, Feb. 5, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 25

    
Check out the printed version of the Top Story news feed and see what  you  missed.
Enjoy Incredible Beach Sunsets and  Sunrises. With the Pacific Ocean and the awesome mountains.
Video security and alarm.  View your home from any computer anywhere.  24/7 monitoring and recording.

Carrillo investigation involved local mayor and Hotel Rui
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A search Monday of the administrative offices of the  Municipalidad de Carrillo is related to an investigation of destruction of mangroves and other environmental faults.

The Poder Judicial Thursday confirmed that prosecutors in Santa Cruz have been at work on the case since October when the first complaint was reported. The situation involves the area around the massive Hotel Rui, which opened for business about that time.

The Poder Judicial said that the allegations being studied include destruction of a primary forest, destruction of mangroves, elimination of the public right-of-way, abuse of authority and failure to do official duty.

The Poder Judicial said that the allegation of destruction of a primary forest involves work that was done with machinery owned and operated by the Municipalidad de Carrillo. For that reason a number of documents from the municipality were the object of the search, the Poder Judicial said. The documents were confiscated, the judicial agency said.

A target of the investigation has been identified as the local mayor, Carlos Cantillo Álvarez.

Edgar Alberto Cantón Pizarro, vice president of the Consejo Civil de Carrillo, said that the alleged illegal activity took place in the area of Playa Matapalo where trees were cut and buried to remove the evidence of
wrongdoing. In addition, the activities converted a public road to a private one.

A public complaint about the environmental impact of the 701-room hotel was raised by Partido Acción Ciudadana in October.

Acción Ciudadana said that it questioned the way the project was designed and that it appeared the hotel construction damaged the mangroves in the area.

Acción Ciudadana said in a news release then that the hotel had not followed the local zoning plan devised by the Ministerio de Ambiente, Energía y Telecomunicaciones that showed part of the project area to be mangroves. The plan also was devised by the Área de Conservación Tempisque.

The statement was issued in the names of Lesvia Villalobos and Patricia Romero, legislative deputies who are members of the political party. The communication said that the hotel was just 200 meters from the beach, although that is a legal location. The statement seemed to suggest that such large projects should not be so close to the ocean. The most recent explanation from Cantón said that activities in the maritime zone also were being investigated.

The political party also said that the hotel contractor had deficiencies in matters of health and labor and that workers lived in terrible conditions there. The construction project closed for a time in November 2008 when some of the workers became sick. One man died. The majority of the workers were from Nicaragua.


Intense pain displaces consideration of new title for column
I had no idea what an avalanche of suggestions would come in response to my editor’s note saying I would like them for a new title for my column.

Well, I do appreciate them.  Most of them are better than “Living in Costa Rica.” And some of them are a big improvement.  But it is going to take me at least another week to decide what to do about them.  It is not easy to think when you have a broken and infected tooth root.  Pain gets in the way. 

It was finally decided that my best option was to replace the tooth with an implant.  When I arrived late at my dentist’s office, the two guest dentists, Vivian and Giovanni, were waiting patiently for me. My effusive apologies for being 20 minutes late were met with “No problema,” from both – and I believed them.  They seemed to have been relaxed and chatting when I arrived, not looking at their watches. 

That reminded me again of “The Happiest People in the World,” the article in the New York Times by Nicholas Kristof.

I have often thought about writing on the subjects of happiness and contentment.  Happiness more often is an inside job, in my opinion, or a passing occasion of pleasure.  Contentment is being satisfied, not wanting more than what is or what you have and is a more long-term condition.  My two dentists seemed quite happy for the opportunity to relax and talk even though they had to wait for me.

This was my first implant, and I knew only that it required enough bone in my jaw that would support the screw.  It did require two shots of novocaine that were administered quite painlessly considering the area was still hurting from the infection.  Then my existing crown was extracted and a screw was inserted.  The infection had destroyed some of my bone so they had to replace it with fake bone (I didn’t know there was such a thing). That added $100 to my bill.
 
The whole procedure was painless with the only disturbing parts being the sounds of chipping and of the drill.  It took
?????????????

. . .????????????????????????

By Jo Stuart
jostuart@amcostarica.com

 
a few minutes to sew up my gum but in less than 40 minutes they were finished.  I was happy for the numbness that covered the pain I had had for a week.  When that wore off, the pain came roaring back, but by 8 p.m. for the first time in a week I was pain free.  I was ready to dance on my furniture.

Now I must wait for four months for everything to heal and be ready for the tooth.  That is the tough part.  What about this "implants in one day” commercial I see emanating from Colorado?  When all is complete, it will cost $1,440.

Not long after I returned from my trip, I picked up the Mythic Fish T-shirt from Charlene and her husband, who had to come into the city.  Then I returned to the artisan’s row in the Plaza de Democracia to find Sr. Manolo.  Just as I was wondering if I could find him again, he came out from behind his kiosk to greet me.  He looked a different man, no longer seeming as depressed and defeated as before.  I explained that I had come to give him his commission on shirts sold with his design.

He accepted the money matter-of-factly, explaining that money was not that important to him, but that we (The VanStone Group, and I) were “regular people,” unlike most of the people who stole his artwork.

As I walked away, I thought, Manolo is certainly not a happy man, but he is content.  Then I realized that I was happy at the moment because of all the nice letters with suggestions, but I was not content because pretty soon I was going to have to decide what to do with them. 

I think Ticos are happy and/or content because they live in the present most of the time.


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San José, Costa Rica Friday, Feb. 5, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 25

Graph shows the estimated rate of tax evasion each year in Costa Rica, as computed by the financial watchdog agency. The numbers are based on  a series of estimates.
tax evasion
Contraloría de la República/A.M. Costa Rica


Tax evasion estimated at more than 70 percent but declining

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Contraloría de la República estimated that the country lost out on the bulk of the taxes residents were supposed to pay from 1991 to 2007. A study released Thursday said that the rate of tax evasion was estimated at from 72 to 73 percent in the period from 1991 to 1993 and spiked to 79 percent in 1995.

The Contraloría estimated the amount of taxes that should have been paid by estimating the gross national product and then comparing the taxes that should have been generated with the taxes actually paid.

However, the Contraloría, the national's financial watchdog, said that evasion declined to 70 percent in 2006 and to 64.3 percent in 2007.

The study credited tighter controls and methods like the fiscal lottery. In the lottery citizens were asked to submit facturas or invoices from various companies, and winners of prizes were selected among the submitters by chance. But then the Tributación General would study the submitted facturas and go after those merchants who were not reporting their sales or other economic activity.
Costa Rica has an extensive system of reporting in which both those paying for goods and services as well as those selling goods and services have to submit reports.

The reports used to be annual, but this year Tributación has said it will require quarterly reports.

So a taxpayer who goes to the dentist is supposed to file a report on the money paid for treatment. Tributación will match that against the income statements submitted by the dentist.

The Contraloría said that evasion cannot be reduced to zero, but in Costa Rica the amount withheld by taxpayers is high compared to the national economy.

The study also showed that the average gross profit of businesses ranged from 21 percent to 17 percent from 2004 to 2007.

Tributación has been working with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service to increase the efficiency of collection.

The study did not address evasion of sales tax, which also is rampant.



Bridge at fatal crash site being reinforced resurfaced

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The nation's highway administrator says work is taking place on the bridge over the Río Lagarto to reinforce the deck and some of the steel beams below.

This is the bridge where a tractor-trailer collided with a gasoline tanker this week, and two men died. The tanker burned for more than three and a half hours, and an inspection by engineers determined that one of the steel beams beneath the bridge deck had been weakened. The Consejo Nacional de Vialidad said that work was being
done to reinforce this beam as well as one other. In addition, decaying concrete was being removed from the bridge deck and replaced.

The bridge has sported a gaping pothole for at least three years. When a tourist swerved his vehicle to avoid the pothole this week, he triggered a series of events that led to the accident. The bridge is on the Interamericana Norte.

Traffic is being held to one lane while the work goes on, although officials hope to open the bridge to full service this weekend.


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San José, Costa Rica Friday, Feb. 5, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 25

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It's not global warming
but soot that melts glaciers


By the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
news staff

Global warming has been blamed for the thinning of the Himalayan glaciers, but that may not be the cause.

The fact that glaciers in the Himalayan mountains are thinning is not disputed. However, few researchers have attempted to rigorously examine and quantify the causes. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory scientist Surabi Menon set out to isolate the impacts of the most commonly blamed culprit— greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide — from other particles in the air that may be causing the melting. Ms. Menon and her collaborators found that airborne black carbon aerosols, or soot, from India is a major contributor to the decline in snow and ice cover on the glaciers.

“Our simulations showed greenhouse gases alone are not nearly enough to be responsible for the snow melt,” says Ms. Menon, a physicist and staff scientist in Berkeley Lab’s Environmental Energy Technologies Division. “Most of the change in snow and ice cover — about 90 percent — is from aerosols. Black carbon alone contributes at least 30 percent of this sum.”

Menon and her collaborators used two sets of aerosol inventories by Indian researchers to run their simulations.Their results were published online in the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics.

The actual contribution of black carbon, emitted largely as a result of burning fossil fuels and biomass, may be even higher than 30 percent because the inventories report less black carbon than what has been measured by observations at several stations in India. However, these observations are too incomplete to be used in climate models. “We may be underestimating the amount of black carbon by as much as a factor of four,” she said.

The findings are significant because they point to a simple way to make a swift impact on the snow melt. “Carbon dioxide stays in the atmosphere for 100 years, but black carbon doesn’t stay in the atmosphere for more than a few weeks, so the effects of controlling black carbon are much faster,” Ms. Menon says. “If you control black carbon now, you’re going to see an immediate effect.”

The study suggests a solution as to why a small change in the estimated earth's average temperature has such great effects on glaciers and the polar ice caps.

The Himalayan glaciers are often referred to as the third polar ice cap because of the large amount of ice mass they hold. The glacial melt feeds rivers in China and throughout the Indian subcontinent and provide fresh water to more than one billion people.

Atmospheric aerosols are tiny particles containing nitrates, sulfates, carbon and other matter, and can influence the climate. Unlike other aerosols, black carbon absorbs sunlight, similar to greenhouse gases. But unlike greenhouse gases, black carbon does not heat up the surface. It warms only the atmosphere.

This warming is one of two ways in which black carbon melts snow and ice. The second effect results from the deposition of the black carbon on a white surface, which accelerates melting. Put another way, dirty snow absorbs far more sunlight — and gets warmer faster — than pure white snow.

Previous studies have shown that black carbon can have a powerful effect on local atmospheric temperature. “Black carbon can be very strong,” Ms. Menon says. “A small amount of black carbon tends to be more potent than the same mass of sulfate or other aerosols.”

Black carbon, which is caused by incomplete combustion, is especially prevalent in India and China; satellite images clearly show that its levels there have climbed dramatically in the last few decades. The main reason for the increase is the accelerated economic activity in India and China over the last 20 years. Top sources of black carbon include shipping, vehicle emissions, coal burning and inefficient stoves. According to Ms. Menon’s data, black carbon emitted in India increased by 46 percent from 1990 to 2000 and by another 51 percent from 2000 to 2010.

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San José, Costa Rica Friday, Feb. 5, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 25


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Panama's bill to regulate
media prompts astonishment


Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The legislature in Panamá is considering a bill that would create an agency to oversee the news media's self-regulation.

The Inter American Press Association has expressed concern and astonishment at the bill.

The bill, introduced by Dalia Bernal of the governing Partido Cambio Democrático, originally was intended to reactivate a censorship board that existed during Panama’s dictatorship, but later it was made clear that the proposed new agency would not censor, rather set the norms and oversee media self-regulation.

After a self-regulation agreement governing programming and public criticism of President Ricardo Martinelli was reactivated by the country’s leading television channels, Bernal called for the measure to be extended to newspapers and radio stations.

Alejandro Aguirre, president of the Inter American Press Association, expressed surprise “at this initiative which demonstrates troublesome government interference and encroachment on editorial positions and independence from officials that news media must maintain.”

“We want to make it quite clear.” added Aguirre, managing editor of the Miami, Florida, Spanish-language newspaper Diario Las Américas, “We are not opposed to the application and promotion of ethical values in the work of the press, in fact we promote them. What we cannot accept is that they be imposed by the government or by any other entity outside the press.” He stressed that when rules are imposed, the concept of self-regulation is distorted and “what exists is regulation pure and simple."

Robert Rivard, chairman of the organization's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, declared that “government infringement into journalistic ethics” is simply “a step backwards for press freedom.”

Rivard, editor of the San Antonio Express-News, Texas, stated that imposition of ethical standards on the news media goes against international press freedom standards

The organization is a not-for-profit group dedicated to the defense and promotion of freedom of the press and of expression in the Americas. It is made up of more than 1,300 print publications,including A.M. Costa Rica, from throughout the Western Hemisphere and is based in Miami, Florida.



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