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(506) 223-1327        Published  Monday, Feb. 13, 2006, in Vol. 6, No. 31          E-mail us    
Jo Stuart
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This year Easter will be an extra long holiday
By Garland M. Baker
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Semana Santa, Easter week, is just around the corner and it is longer this year.

Law 8442 reformed the Labor Code, Law 2, Article 148, last year moving several holidays from their calendar day to the following Monday.  The holidays include April 11, July 25, Aug. 15, and Oct. 12.  This year April 11 falls on Tuesday of Semana Santa week. Based on the law the day will be celebrated Monday, April 17, thereby extending the holiday.

Customarily, San José closes down for the Easter holiday, and almost everyone heads for the beach.  This year most people will be able to leave after work on Friday, April 7, and can holiday until Tuesday, April 18.

Yes, Monday, April 10, Tuesday, April 11, and Wednesday, April 12, are theoretically work days, but savvy Ticos make their plans early, requesting vacation time so they can take off the whole week.  Most governmental institutions, including the courts and the Registro Nacional close for Semana Santa.

Employees do not have all the breaks, however. The legal work week here is 48 hours or, usually, six days.

In addition, there are two kinds of holidays in Costa Rica, paid and unpaid.

The nine paid holidays are Jan. 1  (New Years), April 11 (Juan Santamaría Day), Holy Thursday and Holy Friday during Easter Week, May 1 (Labor Day), July 25 (Annexation of Guanacaste Day), Aug. 15 (Mother’s Day), Sept. 15 (Costa Rica Independence Day), and Dec. 25 (Christmas Day).

The two unpaid holidays are Aug. 2  (La Virgin de Los Angeles) and Oct. 12, Cultural Day, known as Christopher Columbus Day in the United States and el Día de la Raza in other Latin countries.

Costa Rican law requires employers to pay their employees for paid holidays.  If employers obligate employees to work, they must pay them double time.

The law also requires employers to allow their employees to enjoy unpaid holidays. If

employees are required to work on an unpaid holiday, they also have the right to double time.

Employees paid weekly or every two weeks have the right to be paid for their day of rest if a holiday falls on the day.  Most people do not know this and do not pay employees for such days.  Employees have the right to a single day's pay.

The law contemplates that all workers paid every 15 days or monthly are paid for their day of rest, thus are paid when a holiday falls on the day.  However, employees paid weekly or every two weeks are not compensated for their day off, so should be paid back when a holiday falls on the rest day.

Labor Laws are strict in Costa Rica.  Courts can award back pay to any employee who does not receive his or her due plus interest and penalties. 

Plan early this year to prepare for the long Easter week.  Put on the calendar the changes for the special holidays which move to Monday.  Don’t get caught showing up at the office when the employees are still at the beach enjoying the sun and a cold piña colada. 
Garland M. Baker is a 35-year resident and naturalized citizen of Costa Rica who provides multidisciplinary professional services to the international community.  Reach him at info@crexpertise.com.  Lic. Allan Garro provides the legal review.  Reach him at crlaw@licgarro.com.  Baker has undertaken the research leading to these series of articles in conjunction with A.M. Costa Rica.  Find the collection at http://crexpertise.info.  Copyright 2004-2006, use without permission prohibited.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Feb. 13, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 31

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Snowfall in Northeast
causes air travel mess

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services
and the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A winter storm has dumped record-setting snowfall in New York City, while disrupting air travel across the northeastern United States while cutting power to thousands of people.

U.S. weather officials said Sunday that 68.3 centimeters of snow had accumulated in New York's Central Park, the largest snowfall since recordkeeping began in 1869. The amount exceeded  by a centimeter the amount dumped by the blizzard of 1947

Officials closed airports in New York City, New Jersey, Boston and other key Northeast cities, and air traffic was disrupted elsewhere. By nightfall Sunday service resumed at Ronald Reagan National Airport in Washington and some New York area locations. Travel warnings were issued for large parts of New England as the storm moved northward late Sunday.

Both Delta Air Lines and Continental reported flights to the Northeast being canceled. Continental said that New York's La Guardia airport was closed due to the snow storm as of 7 p.m. San José time. Philadelphia, Boston and Newark Liberty were opened again but experiencing flight delays, and cancellations, due to weather.

JFK Airport in New York was experiencing delays of more than four hours. Both airlines advised travelers to keep in touch with the company for latest information.

Our readers' opinions
Reader points out
Figueres KGB link

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Corruption, an old tune with new notes

Later this year is the 100th anniversary of the birth of José Figueres Ferrer, the founder of the modern Costa Rican state which is Sept. 25.  Figueres is a family well entrenched in Costa Rican politics.

During this countrywide celebration of good ole Pepe’s birthday, I wonder if the recent unvailing of the previously "classified" records in Russia of KGB meddling in Costa Rica by the Russian secret service will be mentioned.

In a recent book (”The World Was Going Our Way: The KGB and the Battle for the Third World”), Vasili Mitrokhin, who defected in 1992, collaborated in a work that covers KGB operations in Latin America and other continents.

Mitrokhim claims that Costa Rica’s Jose “Pepe” Figueres received $300,000 from the KGB for his 1970 presidential campaign and $10,000 afterward.

In a 1974 KGB report to then-president Leonid Brezhnev, it said:  “In view of the fact that Figueres has agreed to publish materials advantageous to the KGB, he has been given $10,000 U.S. dollars under the guise of stock purchases in his newspaper.”

The book also says that after his election, Figueres met regularly with the KGB chief in San Jose, rather than the Soviet ambassador. KGB case officer Svyatoslav Kuznetsov reported to Moscow that “Figueres took elaborate precautions to preserve the secrecy of his regular meetings with the KGB resident.”

Pepe Figueres’ son, José María Figueres Olsen, fearing arrest, has refused to return to Costa Rica to answer questions about receiving a $900,000 consulting fee from the French telecommunications firm Alcatel involving a cell phone contract in Costa Rica.
Phil Mattingly

Global income tax called
counterproductive here

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I am writing about the proposed new tax plan.  I am a North American real estate investor/developer.  The almost certain result of passing a tax law that taxes foreign residents on all worldwide income would be an immediate crash of the real estate market, bringing the whole economy down with it. 

Gringos are not going to want to retire here if it means they have to pay income tax on all of their income to the United States AND to Costa Rica!  I will certainly sell my land the day after this vote, and buy in Panama!  The Gringos will all just go to Panama or Nicaragua, where not only do they don’t have to pay taxes, they actually have incentives to move there. 

If Costa Rica remains tax-friendly to Gringos (and fixes the roads), she will generate far more tax income from value added tax (VAT) and sales tax than would ever be raised by this short-sighted income tax.  I am a liberal Democrat politically, but the one thing I agree with the conservative Republicans on is that income tax is counterproductive and actually generates far less income than VAT. 

One alternative idea is to have two VATs, one for native Costa Ricans, and a higher one for foriegners (and turistas), who can afford to pay more.  This tax could be determined by a swipe of the identity card/passport.  In this way, Costa Rica could collect all the taxes she needs without chasing off the Gringos, and placing the brunt of the taxes on the Gringos, so taxes on the Ticos could be light! 

Why not try this instead?  I guarantee it will generate twice the income and one percent of the grumbling by Gringos, and will not cause a Gringo exodus.  Think, Costa Rica, Think!
Loren S. Wendel
Professional Directory
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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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Feb. 13, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 31

An all-purpose exclamation that's used every day
¡Idiay! Vos sabés que la política es así.

“Well, you know that politics is like that.” But, let me explain this little expression idiay. In the way we use it in Costa Rica, it actually  has three written forms: ydiay, diay, idiay.

Idiay does not mean just one thing. It is an exclamatory expression that can be used in numerous situations to express different feelings. Part of the key to understanding idiay is the two letters  di. Di is the second person familiar imperative form of decir,  meaning “to say, to speak, to tell.” So, implied within idiay is the imperative demand for a verbal response. That having been said, let me add the caveat that this is a personal theory of mine based upon my own observations and not academic linguistic research.

You might say, for example, ¡Idiay! ¿Como le va? “Say, how are you  doing?” To which the answer might be:  ¡Idiay, maje! Todo pura vida.  “Say, man! Everything’s great.”

But when you’re out on a family picnic and someone complains about the rainy weather, you might just shrug and say simply idiay, meaning, “Well, that’s how it goes.”

Or how about: Idiay ¿quien ganó las elecciones el pasado Domingo?  Meaning: "Tell me, who won the elections last Sunday?"

This expression can also be used to indicate mild irritation or complaint. Like, for example if someone takes your seat at the movies when you go to the concession stand for popcorn. You might say, with  some indignation:  ¡Idiay, maje! Me quito el campo. Or: “What’s this, man?! You took my place!”

The way I used it in the first line of today’s column, of course, has to do with politics, and the fact that it’s taken so long for us in Costa Rica to find out who really won the election. It’s like saying:  “What’s up with this?” Then the second part of the title is the  response: “You know that’s the way politics is.”

Idiay is frequently accompanied by a little shrug of the shoulders, a wagging of the head, or some such physical manifestation depending upon the meaning one wants to convey.

way we say it

By Daniel Soto

Now, we might also construct a question sort of like this: ¿Idiay,  que pasó?  Meaning: “Tell me, what happened with you?” The answer might be: Diay, no ve que no llegué a tiempo al aeropuerto. Or:  “Listen, don’t you see, I didn’t arrived on time at the airport.”  Notice that idiay begins both the question and the response. This is perfectly acceptable colloquial usage.

A few of my favorite expressions, whenever I see some of my close friends are: ¿Idiay que me iche? or ¿Idiay que me dice?  Meaning:  “Hey what’s up?” Also: ¡Idiay, mae! ¿Que se habia hecho? Meaning:  “Hey man! What have you been up to?” These are greetings that are designed to elicit a cheerful response.

But back to the elections of last Feb. 5th: Idiay que pasó? Idiay así es la política may sound a little bit like apathy, and many  people may think that because we were not in the streets protesting  one way or the other means Costa Ricans have simply settled for the  way things turned out. No, that’s not the way Costa Ricans do things.

We’ll wait patiently until the Tribunal Supremo de Electiones has finished all its counting and investigating, and then public opinion about the politicians who were subsequently installed in office will  begin to surface.

It has often been observed that politicians in Costa Rica do not  experience the so-called “honeymoon” with the public that their U.S. counterparts usually enjoy. The day after this year’s lot of politicos is confirmed in office you can bet that the Costa Rican electorate will begin grumbling and complaining and looking forward  to the next election. 

Phantom thief has his way with tire-busting Gringos
By Jesse Froehling
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

You're not supposed to get a flat right after you tell the guy at the gas station to put air in your tires. 

But, as a buddy and I pulled away from a Paso de la Vaca gas station Saturday morning about 11 o'clock the rear tire on the passenger side of the car started going wump wump wump wump.  I've lived here for a while and know how the game works.  You pull over to fix a flat and someone offers to help you then distracts you and robs you or sticks a gun in your face and takes all your stuff.  My buddy has seven years under his belt in Costa Rica, so he's not a newbie either.  We kept driving.  Some 200 meters later we saw a parking lot in front of a series of businesses in San Jose's Barrio México.

The place looked pretty secure.  He dug out the jack and lifted up the car while I broke loose the lug nuts.  A guy walked by and asked us where he could find a telephone card. 

I had a feeling something was up when he wouldn't take, “I don't know, buzz off,” for an answer.  So I stood up and looked around. 

Everything seemed fine.  No helpers had shown up, nobody with a gun had shown up, and the guy looking for the telephone card had wandered off.  By this time, my buddy had the tire off.  I put the flat on the back of his truck, he tightened down the spare, let the car down, and as we hopped back in, he started griping about the crummy luck it takes to get a flat when you're on the way to the beach as you pull out of the gas station. 

As we climbed in, he noticed the spot in the back where our bags used to be.

“Hey man, our bags are gone,” he said.  “What happened?”  I didn't understand either.  We drove to a relatively secure spot, no helpers came, nobody with guns came and yet, someone had still managed to walk off with our bags.  I guessed that it took about 45 seconds for me to break lose the lug nets while he jacked the car up.  That was the only time we were both distracted.  These guys were fast and efficient.

I checked through the items I had lost: my camera, my favorite T-shirt, my favorite pair of jeans. My camera and my last bag of ranch sunflower seeds from my trip to the United States are all priceless items.  My buddy lost his wallet and cell phone so we bummed a phone off someone so he could cancel everything. 

Convinced that the puncture was the work of the attendant checking our tires at the gas station, we drove back and offered to buy our bags back.  Of course, he didn't have any idea what we were talking about and even gave us directions to the nearest Fuerza Pública station, which happened to be right next door.  So we told him we were going to file a police report, stomped around a bit and went to the police station. 

“Sorry, there's nothing we can do,” the police told us.  “Go to the Judicial Investigating Organization on Monday and fill out a report.”

Fuming, we hopped back in the car and drove to the beach.  During a sunset surf session with glassy waves and the sun sparkling orange off the water, it was much easier to remember that our lost items were just stuff.  Real worth is a surf session with a good bud in Costa Rica. 

But, I do miss my favorite T-shirt. 

EDITOR'S NOTE: Mr. Froehling, an intern, also has been the victim of an armed robbery. See that story HERE!

You need to see Costa Rican properties for sale
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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Feb. 13, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 31

U.S. seeks new political leaders for troubled Nicaragua
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The corrupt alliance between former Nicaraguan presidents Arnoldo Aleman and Daniel Ortega to control their country’s political agenda is an obstacle to good governance, and the United States will continue to urge that the November elections in Nicaragua serve as an opportunity for the Nicaraguan people to break from the past, according to a top U.S.official.

He is Thomas Shannon, U.S. assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs.

In what the United States has labeled a "creeping coup," the former Nicaraguan leaders forged a political pact that was designed to control Nicaraguan politics and protect each of them from charges of corruption and criminality.  Within this context, the former presidents' supporters in the National Assembly passed a series of laws and constitutional reforms in November 2004 that threaten the nation's democratic institutions and undermine democratically elected President Enrique Bolaños.

In an interview with Spanish newspaper El Pais, Shannon said the corrupt pact represents "an obstacle to good governance and to the Nicaraguan people's ability to choose their political leadership in a free and fair election."
Shannon added that Nicaragua must move past the alliance and break from the past if it is to prosper.

For Nicaragua to continue to progress, for Nicaragua to take advantage of the U.S.-Central America Free Trade Agreement, to take advantage of debt relief for poor countries, for it to take advantage of the Millennium Challenge foreign aid program, the country needs new political leadership, Shannon said.

To this end, the State Department official observed that the Nicaraguan people and civil society groups are working to encourage opposing views.

"In Nicaragua, groups like Moviemiento por Nicaragua and other civil society groups have been protesting against that pact, have been protesting against a political cabal that was attempting to limit and control Nicaragua's political future," Shannon said. 

"And they've been quite successful in this regard."

With the approach of the November presidential and legislative elections in Nicaragua, Shannon said, the United States and the international community will monitor the efforts of Ortega and Aleman to exert their influence over the process.

"We are going to continue to urge that Nicaraguan elections be as open as possible. . . ," he said.

Disaster executives meeting to make plans to minimize Nature's impact
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Atlantic Hurricane season destroyed numerous homes and roads and drove thousands from their homes but Costa Ricans are learning from it.

Some 30 representatives from eight cantons will meet today to discuss methods in which to minimize the effects of natural disasters.  The five-day meeting, the “Curso en Gestión Terremotos para la Reducción del Riesgo a Desastres,” will gather representatives from Dota, León Cortés, Desamparados, San José, Cañas, Tarrazú, Belén and Alajuelita.  Organizers hope the participants will discuss emergency management techniques related to volcanoes, tsunamis,
earthquakes, landslides and flooding, all natural phenomenons that affect Costa Rica.  Flooding was particularly bad last year.

Besides discussions and lectures, the participants are scheduled to take a tour of Barrio Corazón de Jesús, a community with serious social problems that have arisen as a result of geological and meteorological factors, organizers said. 

Sponsors of the program include the Municipalidad de San José, the Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico de Costa Rica, the Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias and the Cooperación Internacional del Japón.

Journalists discuss the dangers of covering Central America's gangs
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Some 300 journalists, editors, government officials and experts congregated in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, Friday and Saturday to discuss the safety of journalists, the obligations of the government and upkeep of rapid communication in relation to Central American gangs.

The conference, “Periodismo, Violencia y Pandillas en Centroamérica,” was organized by the Interamerican Press Association.  Several government officials including Honduran President Manuel Zelaya as well as the security ministers from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, were present to discuss the politics of the gang problem such as immigration and organized crime. 
Diana Daniels, president of the Interamerican Press Association and vice president of the Washington Post Co. said that one of the major objectives of the meeting was to offer a stronger form of security to the journalists who find themselves in risky situations while covering gangs.

“We want to understand this problem better.  We listen and we learn.  The dialog, the debate and the experiences offer us elements to practice journalism of the highest quality,” Ms. Daniels said.  
Discussion panels were organized by news people from throughout Central America, policemen and journalists from Honduras, the United States, Colombia and experts from throughout different Latin American countries. 

Ad campaign will seek to discourage sexual exploitation of minors
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The government and non-profit organizations will renew their fight against child sex commerce by launching a new advertising campaign. That was the thrust of a press conference Friday.

Spearheading the promotion effort is Fundación Paniamor, which is being supported by the  U. N. Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute,  ECPAT International and the Italian government.

The plan seems to be to put up bus placards, and radio and television ads against the sexual
exploitation of minors,

In addition, some signs will be erected at border crossings at Paso Canoas y Peñas Blancas.

The project also will include training for immigration and police officers. The project also has the backing of Rogelio Ramos Martínez, mininster of Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública.

A release from the ministry noted that more than 61 fugitives linked to sex crimes have been arrested in the last two years.  All of these were Costa Ricans or residents here.

Counting of presidential ballots continue today with daily reports
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Workers at the election tribunal will continue counting ballots today. So far they have gone through about 25 percent of the ballots cast in Feb. 5's presidential election.

The results are believed to show a slight advantage for Óscar Arias Sánchez, who is the presumed victor.

Supporters of Ottón Solís, the candidate of the Partido Acción Ciudadana, are continuing to see flaws in the
process. In one such incident, a presidential ballot
 marked for Solís was found in the trash at a Grecia school that was used as a polling place. Some Solís supporters say this is a sign of fraud. Those involved with the polling place say the ballot was one of two given a voter by mistake and was voided before election officials lost track of it.

The Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones is releasing the results of the count each weekday. However, officials are not providing running totals, and the format of the daily report makes computing the totals difficult. Nevertheless, informal counts put Arias of the Partido Liberación Nacional ahead.

Jo Stuart
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