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These stories were published Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2005, in Vol. 5, No. 33
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Typical rental rates listed
Rental car puzzle can be solved with these tips
By Joe Medici
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Renting a car in Costa Rica can be a hair-raising experience. Horror stories of unseen costs, unreturned deposits and cars with faulty brakes float around Gringo hangouts. 

Combine these fears with the fact that rental contracts require lawyer-translators and you have what appears to be a recipe for problems.

Carol López-Calleja works at the travel desk at
Hotel Balmoral on Avenida Central in San José. Every day she and other in the same type of job help tourists sort through rental car companies. After years of experience with the 
companies, she says the best strategy is to be active.

Mrs. López-Calleja says that consumers should search through the Internet and then call local car rental agencies. Consumers need to make sure they know the entire price, including any mileage fees, early return fees and insurance fees. Consumers should also inquire about pickup fees. Several agencies charge for airport pickup.

Many tourists also claim that they had problems obtaining their "reserved" cars. Tourists claim that their cars were not reserved after all. The local agencies say that customers receive confirmation numbers after ordering their cars and that their reservations services are completely reliable. Still, it would be wise to call the day before the trip to ensure that the car will be there.

Rental car companies are also known for their one-sided contracts. Company representatives maintain that their contracts are fair and meet industry standards, but consumers should take caution with their rentals. Some customers have been hit with healthy repair bills on their credit cards long after they had left the country.

In order to avoid any contract-related costs, Mrs. López-Calleja recommends taking a hands-on approach. "Go through the car before you take it," she says. "Make sure the radio, the air conditioning, the brakes and everything else works. Make sure the car doesn’t have any problems."

The same hands-on approach will avoid problems when the car is returned. "Go through the car with them when you turn it in and make sure to tear up the credit card voucher," Mrs. López-Calleja says. These steps should help to reduce any extra costs that agencies might try to recover.

The No. 1 tip advocated by travel agencies and by the rental companies is to shop around. Informed consumers should be able to find the best deals and reduce the chances of paying more than they have to.

Of course there are scammers, too, agencies without vehicles.  They simply take deposits from foreign tourists. Firms that advertise in A.M. Costa Rica have generated no such complaints.

 

Typical vehicle weekly rental charges
     
  High
Season
Low
Season
Europcar
$$
$$
 Toyota Yaris
324
286
 Daihatsu Terios 4x4
414
365 
 Toyota Rav 4x4
510 
447
     
Adobe    
 Toyota Yaris
355
331
 Daihatsu Terios 4x4
474 
444 
 Toyota Rav 4x4
522
466
     
Budget    
 Toyota Yaris
342 
264
 Daihatsu Terios 4x4
453
375 
 Toyota Rav 4x4
525 
417
     
National (Yaris not available)    
 Toyota Corolla
357
326
 Daihatsu Terios 4x4 
429 
399 
 Toyota Rav 4x4 
545
545
     
Mapache    
 Toyota Yaris
300 
286
 Daihatsu Terios 4x4 
418
374
 Toyota Rav 4x4 
515
456
     
Thrifty    
 Toyota Yaris
332
314
 Daihatsu Terios 4x4
418
400 
 Toyota Rav 4x4
504
486
     
Hertz (Rav 4x4 not available)    
 Toyota Yaris
324 
264
 Daihatsu Terios 4x4
478
380
 KIA Sportage 4x4 
518
429
     
The A.M. Costa Rica staff calculated these numbers to include insurance fees from information given on company Web pages.

Representatives at the car agencies were reluctant to speak about their company’s policies. Most of the local companies have Web sites that include prices and policies.

The collected data reported here was assembled using company Web sites. In most cases insurance fees needed to be tabulated. These prices reflect the general range available in the country and are suspect to change. 

The three cars used as a sample are available at most of the rental agencies. Similar cars were used for agencies that did not carry a particular model.

Seasonal rates apply at all of the agencies. The high season normally begins in December and runs through end of April. The low season normally encompasses the rest of the year, however, some companies have middle season rates during July.

Rates also vary according to specials that run throughout the year. The collected prices reflect the cost of the car without any special promotional deals.

 
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 Our readers reply
Writer feels crunch
of totalitarian boot

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

The Sound of Taps

If you listen real carefully you can hear the sound of taps being played all over the Costa Rican countryside. This sound is a direct result of two more nails being driven into the coffin of a once proud, prosperous and free country.

Now, as an unofficial 51st state of the USA, the jackboot of U.S. Federal demands crunches down on Costa Rica to bring it in line with U.S. Empire policies and dogma. 

The new tax legislation that’s being literally rammed down the country’s throat, under the guise of bringing the country into line with the modern world, is going to destroy what was once a wonderful place to live, build a home, invest in a business or just play. The new laws will drive thousands of tourist-related business’ out of business and the new "One World, One Tax" will drive most of the retirees away. 

And that’s the good news!!!! Now the U.S.  oppppssss, I mean the Tico government, wants to know all about the investors who have holdings in SA’s no matter how much or how little. All under the guise of "money laundering, narco-terrorism and tax evasion."

Right!!! That’s gonna fly with the "Five Families" and other major Tico players. But then, they've already taken steps to circumvent that eventuality. Unfortunately, others will just move on. No, we are not all suspicious characters, tax evaders, child molesters, drug traffickers and/or terrorists. We just refuse to roll over and play dead to the "One World, One Government" philosophy that is a driving force today.

I’m sorry to see all that is happening here in C.R. It was my dream to retire here and enjoy the freedoms that are quickly being taken away, back in the U.S.A. All in the name of The Free Trade Agreement, Anti Terrorism, the Drug War and so on. Every month it’s a new flavor.  The U.S. government has become what once we fought against in Eastern Europe and other totalitarian states. AmeriKa, the last home of the free and the brave, is no more. 

So goodbye, paradise. On to a much more friendly country, and there are still many who refuse to knuckle under to Big Brothers pressure and coercion. 

I wish the people of C.R. good luck in the coming decades, because it’s going to be a real long time before you realize what has happened here and, unfortunately, much too late.

Sandra Ogle 
Family and Friends 
Hermosa Beach, Costa Rica 


Gang member faces
three months in jail

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A presumed member of one of Central America’s feared criminal gangs will spend the next three months in prisons while he is investigated for attempted murder and aggravated robbery.

The man, whose last names are Solón Hernández, is from Honduras, where gangs are common, officials said. Officials fear that such criminal organizations will find there way into Costa Rica.

Solón was arrested early Monday while he was at the wheel of a taxi near San Rafael de Oreamuno. The vehicle was equipped with an anti-robbery device that caused it to stall if anyone except the legal user tried to drive it.

Not far away Fuerza Pública officers who responded found a taxi driver who had been stabbed in the neck by a shard from a bottle.

Juzgado Penal de Cartago ordered Solón held in preventative detention while the charges are investigated. A spokesperson for the Poder Judicial said the man volunteered his membership in the criminal gang under questioning by investigators.

U.S. offers scholarships
for information technology

By the A.M Costa Rica staff 

The U. S. Department of Commerce is sponsoring a scholarship program for young professionals interested in improving their knowledge of information technology. 

Applicants must come from small- or medium-sized goods and service companies from Central America, Panama, Dominican Republic, Bolivia, Columbia, Ecuador and Peru. They must have three or more years experience in information technology and be fluent in English.  In addition they must also be capable of carrying out a presentation on what they learnt once they return to their country. Those who already work for computer companies will not be eligible for the scholarship. 

There are 15 vacancies on the two and a half week program being held in the United States. It will held during June and includes detailed seminars and on-site visits.  The department said that the primary objective is to help companies to make the most of technology and increase  their  competitiveness their local and global market.  Applications can be made on-line HERE  by March.4. 

Costa Rican will head
World Trade committee

By the A.M Costa Rica staff

A Costa Rican has been named on the board of directors by of the World Trade Organization. Ambassador Ronaldo Saborío Soto will head the Committee on Regional Trade Agreements in the organization. 

The organization named 14 other chairpersons Tuesday.  Representatives from 148 countries that belong to the organization elected Ambassador Amina Chawahir Mohamed of Kenya as president of the general council.  New committee members will hold their position until next February.

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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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A.M. Costa Rica
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James J. Brodell........................editor
Saray Ramírez Vindas...associate editor

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German Obando Vargas of the Fundación para el Desarrollo de la Cordillera Volcánica Central, explains to the environmental minister, the president and the vice president the use of the map system.
Illegal loggers face instant recognition via Web maps
By Saray Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Some 150 employees of the environmental ministry will have the use of 60 hand-held computers to make sure farmers are not logging their land illegally.

Officials discussed the project Tuesday at the weekly Consejo de Gobierno press conference.

The hand-held computers make use of maps of Costa Rica on the Web pages of the Fundación para el Desarrollo de la Cordillera Volcánica Central.
 

The idea is that inspectors with the hand-held computers can determine if a particular piece of property has been logged recently. To do so without permission is illegal here. However, there is an economic incentive to log timber and turn the land into pasture.

The Ministerio de Ambiente y Energía says it is intensifying the fight against illegal logging this year. Carlos Manuel Rodríguez, the minister, attended the demonstration of the use of the maps.

The Instituto Geográfica Nacional also was involved in the project. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization contributed $350,000 for the project, officials said.

A report from Casa Presidencial said that illegal logging represents some 33 to 35 percent of the timber extracted in the country. That is, 3.5 of every 10 tree trunks that make their way by truck from the countryside to saw mills.

Rodríguez also said that the maps on the Internet would provide greater transparency when someone does seek 
permission to log timber and the maps also would avoid errors in which timber was logged on the wrong property.

A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas
President Abel Pacheco makes with an uncharacteristic grin when he speaks with reporters about his recent hospitalization.

The maps are interactive on the Web site, and a viewer can zoom in. However, they are drawn maps and do not contain the accuracy of the high-resolution maps produced by satellite photography. However, satellite imagery probably was used in their construction.

Compared to the images available on Keyhole, which was outlined by A.M. Costa Rica Feb. 7, the map is clunky. 

However, the foundation maps contain land-use history that is not available from a simple photo from space.


 
Sámara hotel faces closure over pollution claim
By Clair-Marie Robertson
of the A.M Costa Rica staff

The closing of a hotel in Sámara has been temporarily delayed by health officials.  The business, Hotel Villas Playa Sámara, located 36 kms (about 22 miles) from the city of Nicoya, will remain open until the Ministerio de Salud  has carried out further hygiene checks. The hotel is still accepting reservations. 

César Gamboa, the general director of  the Ministerio de Salud said "At present, we have currently suspended the closure until we have looked at the technical legalities. We will be looking at the fundamental criteria that they should be meeting." 

Officials claim the hotel is dumping sewage into the sea. Sámara is righton the Pacific coast of the Nicoya Peninsula.

The order of closure was given to the hotel by workers in the Ministerio de Salud’s Nicoya office Thursday. It stated that the hotel had been operating without a permit since 2002. In addition, health officials 

concluded that the hotel had unacceptable sanitary standards. 

The hotel was  asked by the ministry to inform its guests of the closure of the hotel. However, the hotel is still accepting reservations. An employee said by telephone Tuesday "It is not true that the hotel is closing. They are nothing more than lies." 

An employee from the ministry in Nicoya confirmed that health officials will be arriving at the hotel Friday to carry out a rigorous inspection. She said that the decision to postpone the closure was because nearby hotels have said they would be unable to accommodate the hotel’s current guests. 

Officials of the Municipalidad of Nicoya said that they believe the hotel is polluting Playa Carrillo. Juan Marin Quiros, the mayor of the municipalidad said "We are being jeopardized by the pollution that is being produced by a pipe from the hotel that is located in the El Sangraso estuary.  Potential investors and tourist development will be jeopardized because of the contaminated water that is discharged. . . ."


 
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World Bank says more rural investment is needed 
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. ? More investment is needed in the rural areas of Latin America and the Caribbean because of their importance to the economic development of the region, according to a new report by the World Bank.

The report, released Tuesday, said the development of rural economic activities and communities is "pivotal to national well-being" in the region. The report said that historically, rural societies have been at the center of the origins both of prosperity and of social upheaval in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The report, entitled, "Beyond the City: the Rural Contribution to Development" says that rural communities have access to a wealth of natural resources, including arable land and forests, yet they face the highest poverty rates in the region.  The expansion of agricultural activities in Latin America and the Caribbean has a "significant positive" effect on nonagricultural growth, according to the report.

Findings of the report included the fact that about 37 percent — some 65 million people — of the region's poor live in rural areas. In some countries, such as Bolivia, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Paraguay and Peru, at least 70 percent of the rural population lives in 
 

poverty.  In Mexico, some 35 percent of the rural population does not make enough money to pay for minimum necessities for living, a percentage well above the national average of 20 percent, and 11 percent in urban areas.

One figure showing the disparity between life in rural areas and that in cities indicates that in 2000, just over 65 percent of rural families had access to safe drinking water, while almost 94 percent of urban families had access to safe water.

Guillermo Perry, World Bank chief economist for Latin America and the Caribbean and co-author of the report, said that the "rural contribution to development in Latin America and the Caribbean is larger than what we commonly believe."

However, Perry added, "most countries in the region are failing to deliver the right mix of public policies in the rural space, either from a growth or a poverty-reduction perspective."

Perry said the challenge for officials in Latin America and the Caribbean is "how to take advantage of the most dynamic agricultural sectors while helping the more vulnerable with special restructuring and anti-poverty programs."


 
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