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(506) 2223-1327      Published Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2009,  in Vol. 9, No. 33       E-mail us
Jo Stuart
Real Estate
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Legal change would penalize in-country trafficking
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Within the citizen security initiative passed twice by the legislature this month is a legal change that tightens up Costa Rica's prohibition against human trafficking.

For the first time, the legal change covers the trafficking of persons inside the country, noted the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública Monday. Now only trafficking of persons across national borders can be prosecuted.

The legal change will become law when the anti-crime package is signed by President Óscar Arias Sánchez and published in the official newspaper, the La Gaceta.

Also to become law is a provision that says a crime is being committed even if the persons being trafficked, the presumed victims, have given their consent.

Another change is to increase the penalty to 10 to 16 years in prison for violation instead of the current three to six years or from four to 10 years in cases of aggravated prostitution, that is prostitution of persons under 18 years of age or forced prostitution.
A summary of the anticipated changes released by the ministry Monday suggest that taking persons from one location within Costa Rica to another will be a crime if the motive is exploitation, sexual, laboral or otherwise. And even if the persons being transported consent.

The legal change has been promoted by the  Coalición Nacional Contra el Tráfico Ilícito de Migrantes y la Trata de Personas which Ana Durán Salvatierra, a vice minister, chairs. The coalition was set up in 2005. The effort also is promoted by the United Nations Children's Fund and the Patronato Nacional de la Infancia, the country's child welfare organization.

These organizations in October kicked off a promotion campaign against trafficking.

The bulk of the arrests in this area have been of coyotes who are moving Nicaraguans into Costa Rica to join the labor force. This type of trafficking usually is prosecuted under the immigration law.

There have been few arrests for promoting prostitution or trafficking in prostitutes even though Costa Rica is a destination for those involved in this activity because of the strong sex tourism in Costa Rica.

robbery suspects
Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública photo
Two robbery suspects await transportation in Heredia
Sitting half naked on a sidewalk isn't that glamorous
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

There is a glamorous dimension to the armed robber. Jesse James became a legend holding up banks. The Wild Colonial Boy, Jack Duggan, is the subject of a traditional ballad.

And who could forget Paul Newman and Robert Redford as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid taking on the Bolivian army.

Alas, the reality of such an occupation fails to measure up when the cops put you in cuffs on the sidewalk, expose your belly and make it so no one would ever mistake you for Robert Redford.

That was the scene in Barrio San Martín in Santo Tomás de Santo Domingo de Heredia Monday afternoon when the Fuerza Pública caught up with two robbery suspects. The two men, identified by the last names of Leitón Ramírez and Herrera
Rodríguez, are suspected of sticking up a delivery truck driver last week and stealing goods worth about 25 million colons (about $45,000).

The Grupo de Apoyo Operacional of the Fuerza Pública and agents of the Sección de Asaltos of the Judicial Investigating Organization made the arrests while the two men were riding in a vehicle.

Agents had followed them for days while they distributed goods to various stores in the area. Agents say the goods were part of the stickup loot.

The men maintained an apartment in San José where they stashed the goods they were selling, agents said.

It could be worse. Butch Cassidy and Sundance found themselves at the wrong end of Bolivian rifles. In Heredia Monday the only danger was a sunburned stomach.

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Epsy Campbell decides
to make presidential run

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Former party president Epsy Campbell said Monday she would seek her organization's nomination to run for president.

As a pre-candidate in the Partido Acción Ciudadana, she will face party founder Ottón Solís for the nomination. Selection will be made by party members.

Solís was a close second in the 2006 election with Óscar Arias Sánchez. He was third in 2002. However, Solís did not oppose the free trade treaty with the United States strongly, and his party did not put up the rearguard action that treaty opponents wanted.

Ms. Campbell, 45, for her part also has a political problem. She was one of those many individuals who accepted a secret contract with Arias paid for by an international development bank. That took place while crucial elements of the free trade treaty legislation still were in the Asamblea Legislativa. Her contract was for $9,000, but she canceled it quickly and said in public that she made a mistake to accept it.

Acción Ciudadana, therefore, appears to have lost the strong support of the Free trade opponents, and a new conglomeration of political activists appear to be forming a new party to the left of Acción Ciudadana.

Our readers' opinions
Shell game with Internet
continues with Acelera

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Please forgive me for being naive despite having lived five years in Costa Rica. Several weeks ago it was announced that the local telecom monopoly, ICE would double bandwidth on its Acelera or ADSL Internet Service. This according to a directive by Casa Presidencial, along with some noise about ICE being forced to lower rates just when they had been caught in an attempt to unilaterally approve their own price hike. Supposedly the upgrade would provide cheaper Internet because a subscriber could opt to keep their current level of service at the lower price.

Well Alice, here on the other side of the looking glass things become strange. After two weeks of waiting, the Acelera Internet increase is here, and please forgive me for not noticing because it did not actually apply to me. How could I have been so naive to think that I might actually get a better deal from the local telephone monopoly?

What they failed to mention is that this Internet speed boost would not apply to people who already subscribed to the highest tier of home service. Anyone with the service plan called Home Premium Plus will find they have been “upgraded” to a business service plan which provides the same level of bandwidth for the same price as before. Obviously anyone who can pay $71/month for Internet service does not need a price break.

New subscribers to the Acelera service plan called Home Premium Plus can receive 2048/512 kbps of bandwidth at a price of $37/month. So, you may ask why should I keep my business service plan, which provides 2048/768 kps of bandwidth at $71/month? The answer is that second number, which is actually the upstream bandwidth. This bandwidth is usually of more concern for phone calls on VoIP. I enjoy crystal clear phone calls to the United States while being able to surf the Internet simultaneously precisely because I have the 768 kps of upstream bandwidth.

I have also learned in my time here beyond the looking glass that there is usually some kind of trick to circumvent obstacles engineered by slow-witted people. I will replace my current system with two ADSL connections. I will attach the VoIP device to its own line with 1024/512 kbps of bandwidth ($24/month). My computer will be attached to a line with 2048/512 kps of service ($37/month). So I will pay $62/month instead of $71, and will end up with more aggregate service than before. I know that 512 kbps of upstream service will be sufficient because I will no longer share bandwidth between the phone and my web surfing.

I also realize that I should count myself fortunate to have ADSL service, because the 2048/512 kbps level of service costs only $37/month compared to $70/month for the same thing on cable modem. Now would be a good time to apply for ADSL and disconnect your RACSA cable modem. It is actually worth navigating the ICE bureaucracy, because doing so will save $396 a year on high-speed Internet.

Of course anyone looking to the future will note there are serious problems with the Internet growth strategy in Costa Rica. Most people in the United States have long moved away from ADSL service and have an average Internet speed of 3 mbps downstream on cable modem. On a recent trip to visit my family in Washington D.C., I noticed that the neighborhood now receives 20,000 kbps (20 mbps) of downstream service for $75/month. This is because the local telephone company, Verizon, had actually replaced the old copper telephone wires with coaxial and fiber-optic cables.

At some point we need to ask ourselves if Costa Rica actually has “high-speed” Internet while the rest of the world receives 20 times the amount of bandwidth. It reminds me of a time when we used dial-up Internet in Costa Rica while the rest of the world was had discovered ADSL.
Daniel Woodall
San José

Decision on grocery bags
supported with reservations

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Those of us expats who moved here in expectation of enlightened environmental policies, only to be shocked to find that the reality was different than we expected, are pleased to read that a U.S, based country is spearheading the movement away from poison plastic here.

PriceSmart is to be commended, and hopefully "Tico" companies will catch the wave soon.

Of course one mustn't make the mistake of faulting the host country. For after all, It's the "big boys" — USA, Europe, Asia, etc. —  that manufacture the stuff for the rest of the world to disseminate.

The article fell just a tad short though, in generically describing the alternative bags it would be offering as "cloth".????? Can they be more specific? Cloth can be made from plastic, for goodness sake!

Not to look a gift horse in the mouth, but since they are climbing the mantle of environmentalist hero, if they plan on selling cotton bags, as the answer to the plastic ones, WE say JUST SAY NO.!!! Cotton is nearly as environmentally anti-green as plastic. Burlap bags would be much better Mr. Laporte.
Hari Khalsa
Save The Beaches Org.
Cobano chapter

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Costa Rica
third newspage

Real estate
About us
San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 33

Gunmen kill two men, including soccer team president
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Gunmen killed two men on the central Pacific coast Monday,
Adrian Castro
Adrián Castro Velásquez
and investigators are wondering if there is a connection.

Dead in Playa Hermosa was bar owner Arno Phifer, who was found shot once in the head in his establishment Monday morning. The Judicial Investigating Organization said he was a French citizen of Israeli origin.

At 5:30 p.m. one or more motorcyclists pulled along side a car
driven by Adrián Castro Velásquez, president of the
Puntarenas Fútbol Club, one of the nation's major league teams. He died from a bullet in the head.
He also received a bullet in the arm.

The Castro murder took place on the Interamericana not far from the Barranca turnoff.

The Federación Costarricense de Fútbol quickly posted a message of condolence to its Web site.

The Puntarenas Fútbol Club said on its Web site that the shooting happened in a hill known as Subasta Ganadera some 200 meters from the Barranca intersection. It said that there was only one motorcycle, although other witnesses said two.

The motorcycle is an indispensable tool for contract killers in Costa Rica. And in the case of the Playa Hermosa bar owner investigators said that nothing was taken from the business, suggesting that this, too, was some form of retribution or contract killing.

Guardacostas trying to stem piracy in the Gulf of Nicoya
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The head of the Guardacostas in Puntarenas, Capt. Marlon Aguirre, said Monday that his men are patrolling night and day to try to prevent any more pirate attacks against fishermen in the Gulf of Nicoya.

The Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública has promised a strong hand against those who have been boarding fishing boats and stealing them from their operators.

Pirates have been active in the Golfo Dulce near Golfito in southern Costa Rica, off Quepos in the Pacific and in the Gulf of Nicoya, a place where small islands can hide individuals with criminal intent.

The effort against piracy is part of a larger plan to prevent crimes in the Puntarenas area.

Some 200 students from the Escuela Nacional de Policía are
on patrol with experienced officers on land putting in practice what they have learned in the classroom.

Aguirre said that coast guard personnel are making sorties into the gulf at various hours trying to scuttle any piracy plans.

Further south investigators are trying to determine what killed a man found floating in the Pacific. At first they thought the man was the victim of a shipwreck close to Quepos. But Monday they found that all aboard the Quepos craft had managed to reach land. The body was found Sunday close to the Isla del Coco.

In addition to pirates, fishermen in the Pacific are vulnerable to drug smugglers who race fastboats up the coast. Although some fishermen are known to cooperate with the smugglers by supplying fuel, water and food, others can be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
So far the wave of piracy has not affected the growing small boat tourism along Costa Rica's pacific coast.

Environmental judges reject claims that funds were misued
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The judges of the Tribunal Ambiental Administrativo will be going to the legislature's budget committee this week to counter allegations that the agency has misused money.

The money is funds paid to the tribunal by those who have been cited for causing environmental damage.

The three judges of the tribunal issued a blistering statement Monday in which they denied allegations that money had been misused. They are José Lino Chaves, president, Yamilette Mata and José Luis Vargas.

The tribunal has been the agency within the environmental ministry that has been conducting sweeps of areas where
construction has been going on. The judges have frozen many construction sites and haled many developers into their environmental court.

In short, the agency has not won many friends.

There are groups inside and outside the Ministerio de Ambiente, Energía y Telecomunicaciones interested in  discrediting and diminishing the labor of the tribunal, the judges said in their statement. They said they would appear before the Comisión de Gasto Público Thursday without any fear.

Their statement contained a detailed analysis of how the agency used the money it collects and the laws on which it bases its actions.

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Real estate
About us
San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 33

Major legal changes proposed for Costa Rica tourism
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The executive branch put its weight behind two measures Monday that are designed to strengthen tourism in Costa Rica.

The first is a general law of tourism and the second is a measure to promote rural tourism.

The general law of tourism would create a registry of all tourism providers in the country. Registration could be suspended or terminated for cause, according to the proposal.

The proposal also defines a tourist as someone who visits the country for no more than six months a year.  There was no indication if this section would be used to crack down on the so-called perpetual tourists, people who now live in Costa Rica and leave every 90 days to renew their tourism visas.
The general law also includes a list of rights and duties of tourists. And it includes a stipulation against discrimination due to a number of factors, including race, language and nationality. This might have some long-term impact on higher prices for tourists that are found in some museums and other places of public accommodation, if the law is past as written.

The action by the executive branch was to put these proposed laws on the docket for action during the so-called extraordinary period. This period runs until May 1 when the executive branch sets the agenda for the legislature.
There is no guarantee that the measures will be considered, just that they can be considered.

A release from Casa Presidencial called the proposals the most important changes in tourism in the last 10 years. They are No. 17.163 and No. 16.879. As the numbers indicate, the proposals have been in the legislative hopper for some months.

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Costa Rica
fifth news page

Real estate
About us
San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 33

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

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

Cable theft knocks out
5,000 Hatillo phone users

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Crooks who took telephone cable knocked out service for 5,000 persons in Hatillo, said the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad.  The thieves cut four cables, each carrying 1,800 telephone pairs.

The theft took place about 300 meters south of the Rohrmoser telephone central in an underground chamber.

The theft affected land lines as well as mobile, said the company. Also cut was a fiber optic cable that the company said was restored by 2 a.m. Monday.

The company said that because of the great number of lines involved, services were being restored slowly.

A company release also bemoaned the fact that the theft of of inexpensive cable caused so much damage to repair.  It said the company had to excavate to reinstall the four lines.

Peru's economy expanded
at record rate in 2008

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Peru's economy expanded 9.8 percent in 2008 as strong commodity prices helped it grow at the fastest rate in 14 years.

News reports say growth slowed a bit at the end of 2008 and the beginning of this year.

A report also says Peru's government is reporting a 1 percentage point increase in unemployment, putting the rate at 8.8 percent.

Peruvian officials apparently hope to boost trade to help economic growth. Japan's Kyoto news service reports that Peru's foreign and trade ministers plan a visit to Japan for talks on bilateral trade and other issues February 23.

Japan is seeking lower duties on cars it sells to Peru while Peru wants better access to Japan's farm and fisheries markets.

Jo Stuart
Real Estate
About us
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