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Published Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017, in Vol. 17, No. 38
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Some disgruntled police are calling for coup d'etat
By Conor Golden
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Some members of the police are calling for a coup d’etat against the government of Costa Rica for its implementation of a new work schedule for officers and staff.

Tuesday morning, authorities from the Ministerio de Seguridad Pública condemned some of its members calling for a golpe del estado and attempted to justify the controversial schedule change that was implemented Monday. The public security ministry said that the new regulation is an attempt to better the conditions both for the police and for the security of the public.

A group apparently made up of some officers and others that work in public security are calling for the implementation of a six-day on, six-day off plan that would essentially allow police officers to work for six days and then have six days off.

A previous study conducted by the Departamento de Salud Ocupacional concluded that there were no decreases in the fatigue from officers or noted positive health effects from this policy. On the contrary, officials said, the study claimed that the policy decreased the amount of available officers on duty. The study also claimed that there was an increase in crime.

The new policy outlines that members of the police must work under what is called by a 4x2 plan. That means that police work four 12-hour work days with changes in work shift developed every month and be off for two full days. Security officials believe this new schedule does not negatively affect the health of officers.

Representatives of the public security ministry reiterated in a press conference the ministry’s position on the issue stating that the institution has always considered the health and well-being of its members.

They also reminded members opposed to this rule that police recruits came in with the knowledge as to the rigors that the job may require of its members.

They also reminded any would-be coup plotters, the punishment for public instigation and rebellion that could carry a sentence of at least ten years.

The recent uproar against the new rule comes during a time when the police forces in Costa Rica are gaining more manpower and better equipment.

Last Thursday, Seguridad Pública, announced that the first 291 of some 1,500 new police officers the ministry is recruiting have begun their training.

The ministry already has about 10,000 officers within its ranks. These include: the street patrolmen in blue, frontier police, members of the Servicio Nacional de Guardacostas and the Servicio de Vigilancia Áerea.

Other police agencies, such as prison guards, traffic police, tax police and municipal police officers who are under the jurisdiction of other entities.

The Judicial Investigating Organization is part of the judiciary.

The hardware recently acquired by the ministry includes two airplanes and two boats. The arrival of three helicopters is awaited.

In addition, the ministry has at least one King Air, a top-of-the-line turboprop luxury plane as well as a handful of other aircraft.

The previous administration of the United States is providing $25 to $30 million more in equipment, according to the U.S. Embassy.

Costa Rica has not seen an actual golpe del estado attempt come to fruition since 1948 when a rebel army under José Figueres Ferrer overthrew the government of Teodoro Picado and later established a new constitution in 1949 that included, among other reforms, the abolishing of the military.

Since that time, the Costa Rican government has maintained almost 70 years of relative peace with few serious threats of civil war or government overthrow.


The Museo Histórico Cultural Juan Santamaría is opening proposals for 'Guiños del 56-57.' Whether historian or amateur researcher, the exhibition is a chance for those interested to get creative in their rendition, visual or written, of the Campaña Nacional of 1856-1857. Find out more HERE!

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Suspect accused of sexual assault posed
as a modeling agent, police officials say

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Police in Desamparados captured a man accused of sexually assaulting women who is alleged to have committed those crimes by posing as a modeling agent.

According to police, the man contacted women through Facebook claiming to head a modeling agency. Two women, one minor and one adult, went to the suspect’s house Monday night to sign a contract as models, a report said.

When they arrived at the house, the suspect apparently asked both to pose in their underwear. To convince them, the suspect apparently said that the victims needed to rehearse before the photographer would arrive, officials said.

The victims told authorities that during this casting, the suspect touched their intimate parts and kissed them, all without consent.

The adult woman fled from the house and notified police of the situation. Officers arrived and detained the man.

The second circuit court in San José condemned the man to 15 days of preventive detention as a suspect charged with recruiting young women for jobs as models and then sexually abusing them, the Poder Judicial said.

The motion committed Tuesday afternoon will be effective until March 12, officials said.

Officials also noted the possibility of other victims as other documentation masking as real contracts were found at the suspect’s house during the police action.

Police detain man for attacking a child

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Police detained a 25-year old man after he apparently attacked a 6-year old girl with a knife.

This man apparently arrived late Monday night to the house of the victim’s family with a bottle of liquor inviting them to drink, according to a report. The adults rejected the offer and the man ran up to the room where the child was sleeping.

The victim’s father pursued the man and struggled with him until he disarmed the subject and hit him over the head with the back of a hatchet, according to police.

Officers of the Fuerza Pública arrived Tuesday morning and detained the suspect. Police said officers confiscated two knives and a firearm. One of the knives had bloodstains, according to police.

The girl was evacuated to the hospital in Upala sustaining injuries to her neck and abdomen, according to a report. She is in stable condition, police said.

The suspect remains in police custody and will be remanded to the prosecutor’s office following his recovery from what police are calling a severe head injury.

Precise mapping of state to begin March

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The government is embarking on a major effort to precisely map the country.

At first, a team of 20 technicians will map the 25,000 square kilometers that are adjacent to the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean. Then they will map the rest.

The project is more than establishing geographical boundaries. An announcement from Casa Presidencial said that the study would include the morphology of the soil so that those in agriculture would be able to profit by knowing where the best land is.

In fact, the project involves employees of  the Ministerio de Agricultura y Ganadería. The 20 workers will be trained by the Instituto Nacional de Innovación y Transferencia en Tecnología Agropecuaria.

A November 2014 report by the Contraloría General de la República was the stimulus for the work.  The report noted many conflicts by zoning maps of the same cantons held by different agencies.

The announcement Tuesday said the mapping would provide a basis for municipalities to create or update its zoning maps or planes reguladores. Such plans are required for development.

The initial interest is in the coastal areas where the Zona Marítimo Terrestre or maritime zone is located. This is land up to 200 meters from mean high tide that is owned by the state. Some development is allowed with concessions.

The mapping is supposed to begin in March, and the product, maps at a scale of 1 to 50,000, will be published in the Diario La Gaceta official newspaper and made available to local governments.

The technicians will be using techniques established by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The report by the Contraloría noted that many municipalities have not yet created zoning plans. Some only have done so for the coastal zone. The central government has ordered the municipalities to do so, but the local governments complained that the order was not followed up by resources.

The Casa Presidencial announcement noted that the resulting maps would be of benefit for the Instituto Geográfico Nacional, the Sistema Nacional de Áreas de Conservación and other government agencies.

Right now many of the boundaries of public land are unclear and existing maps sometimes overlap. The maps also would be helpful in issuing construction permits because they would specify the types of soil, Casa Presidencial noted.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017, Vol. 17, No. 38
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Central American Free Trade Agreement will face Trump scrutiny
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Donald Trump administration will be taking a close look at all trade agreements, the White House press secretary said Tuesday.

That confirmed what most in Costa Rica already knew: That the Central American Free Trade Agreement would undergo study.

The press secretary, Sean Spicer, made the comments after being asked about the White House announcement last month that the United States would withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Spicer responded by saying that all trade agreements would be studied to see if they conform to Donald Trump's America First policy. The trade agreement that caused so much controversy here when it was proposed did not rate a mention.

The agreement, known as CAFTA, won approval here in an October 2007 referendum with just 51.56 percent of the voters in favor. The requirements mandated by the pact profoundly changed Costa Rica society.

For example, the government was required to open up the insurance and telecom markets. That created space for private insurers and the private but regulated mobil telephone companies.

The agreement also formalized an arbitration system that provides investors a way to appeal what they consider to be

mistreatment by Costa Rican officialdom.

Appeals already have challenged inconsistencies in governmental policies, such as creating a national park and not expropriating the private land within.

A case being heard now challenged the freezing of a real estate project even though approvals had been given.

Opposition to the free trade agreement was fueled by opposition to the United States and its economic system. There also was opposition from public employee unions fearing their state monopolies would be dismantled by the pact.

The pact helped the country's agricultural sector, but U.S. officials are likely to look closely at bottlenecks in the customs service and the treatment of U.S. products shipped here.

The 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership was promoted by former U.S. president Barack Obama. The treaty had not received the required approval by the U.S. Congress.

Trump had railed during the campaign about unfair treatment of the United States in existing trade agreements. Mentioned most of the time was the North American Free Trade Agreement, which is being defended strongly by México.

In fact, most of Trump's rhetoric was directed at the U.S. neighbor to the south. The business community there fears a heavy-handed approach to import tariffs by the Trump administration.

Crowd of 200 has standoff with government at Corcovado preserve
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Almost 200 people gathered outside the limits of Parque Nacional Corcovado Tuesday in an attempt to enter the park despite a standoff with officials.

The majority of these people claim to be associated with the Asociación de Ex Oreros of the Osa Peninsula. Currently, the rules and regulations dictating visitation to the park set a cap of only 120 people allowed in per day.

Officials from the Fuerza Pública, el Área de Conservación Osa representing the parks ministry and Casa Presidencial met with these people and discussed their concerns, according to a report.

Occasionally, police have arrested so-called oreros who seek gold ore on the Osa peninsula.

These are destructive and uncontrolled activities in remote areas. The use of a sluice to extract placer gold from stream beds and nearby sand and gravel can even alter the course of waterways.

Costa Rica always had turned a blind eye to much of this activity because these efforts feed families. The government claims that it will review the existing lists of ex-oreros of the Osa Peninsula. It also said it aims to pass a bill currently in the legislature that proposes providing compensation to the miners and their families in Corcovado and Piedras Blancas.

The discussion seemed to have avoided any problems, according to the parks ministry.

All the protesters left the area peacefully and voluntarily, officials said.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017, Vol. 17, No. 38
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Tracking cameras offer best view about hidden world of dolphins
By The University of Sydney news staff

A world-first study testing new underwater cameras on wild dolphins has given researchers the best view yet into their hidden marine world.

A research team used the custom-made non-invasive cameras to capture and analyze more than 535 minutes of such rarely-seen activities as mother-calf interaction, playing with kelp and intimate social behaviors such as flipper-rubbing. The results are published in the latest Marine Biology.

“For the first time, these cameras have given us the opportunity to see what dolphins do on their own terms,” said Gabriel Machovsky-Capuska from the University of Sydney.  Experts from the University of Alaska Southeast also participated.

“There were no wildlife crews, no invasive underwater housings, and the dolphins remained largely unaffected by our cameras," he said.

"This research opens up a whole new approach for capturing wild animal behavior, which will ultimately help us to not only advance conservation efforts but also come closer to understanding wild predators’ and human nutrition too.”

The successful deployment advances new approaches to filming wild sea creatures, aiding conservation and rehabilitation efforts and giving researchers unprecedented insight into wild dolphins’ prey and habitats.

“Dolphins are marine top predators that are considered biomonitors of marine environments, so gaining a better understanding of their lives will help us to better comprehend the health of marine environments,” said Machovsky-Capuska.

The cameras were attached via suction cups to eight wild dusky dolphins, deployed using a long pole with the aid of Velcro pads.

The University of Sydney photo
Wild dusky dolphin off the coast of New Zealand wears a new non-invasive underwater camera.

The footage was captured off the coast of New Zealand from December to January with each camera system loaded with memory boards, very high frequency and satellite transmitters, time depth recorders and a battery with a life of six hours.

“One challenge of doing this research on small and fast animals like dusky dolphins is that there is limited surface area on the dolphin’s body for tag attachment, so there’s only a small window of time to actually deploy the tag,” said Peter Jones also from the university.

Dolphin specialist Heidi Pearson of the University of Alaska Southeast said the research has great potential for protecting endangered species by giving scientists a much higher resolution of information than is possible with other methods.

“From the surface, researchers can only see about 10 percent of what is going on in an animal’s life. With these video cameras, we can see from the animals’ perspective and begin to understand the challenges they face as they move throughout their habitat,” she said.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017, Vol. 17, No. 38
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U.S. Immigration agents get
tough new operating orders

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has issued two new memos outlining the implementation of President Donald Trump’s executive orders to stop illegal immigration while deporting undocumented immigrants out of the U.S.

The documents, issued Tuesday by Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, expand the priority list for immigrants who face immediate removal, summarize a plan to hire thousands of enforcement agents, and assign local authorities to act as immigration officers to apply immigration laws.

“Effective immediately,” the document read, “department personnel shall faithfully execute the immigration laws of the United States against all removable aliens.”

The memos, first leaked to the media on Friday, have only one exception: the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients, immigrants who came to the United States at a young age and have been protected under a program established by former president Barack Obama.

Approximately 750,000 illegal immigrants who were brought to the United States at a young age depend on the program to live and work in the U.S. without fear of deportation.

Trump told the media during a news conference last week he plans to deal with the young people with heart, a subject he called very, very tough.

Tuesday's memos are a direct interpretation of the Jan. 25 immigration executive orders signed by Trump.

Kelly's directive on border patrol focuses on a proposed U.S.-Mexico border wall as a necessary tool to deter and prevent illegal entry of immigrants.

Immigrants’ rights advocates say new immigration policies of the Trump administration are intent on inflicting cruelty on millions of immigrant families across the country.

The memos are different from Trump's reported new executive order to ban travel from seven majority-Muslim countries. The original order has been blocked by federal courts, and a newly written order is expected this week.

Trump aides facing probes
after just a month in office

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

U.S. President Donald Trump has been in office for a month, but the number of investigations of his new administration and its actions is mounting.

It is not just opposition Democrats trying to uncover the inner workings and thinking of the new administration in Washington, but also Republican colleagues of the billionaire real estate mogul turned politician and government investigators who are raising questions about his actions and those of his aides.

The most significant of the probes concerns contacts between Trump aides and Russian officials. At first, congressional committees and the country's chief investigative agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, were only sorting through the details behind the U.S. intelligence community's conclusion last year that Russia meddled in the run-up to November's U.S. presidential election in an effort to help Trump win.

But those probes deepened following the forced resignation last week of former Army Gen. Michael Flynn as Trump's national security adviser. Trump said he had demanded the resignation because Flynn misled Vice President Mike Pence about his phone conversations with the Russian ambassador to Washington in the weeks before Trump assumed power Jan. 20.

Trump laid the blame for Flynn's downfall on U.S. intelligence agencies for illegally disclosing the content of calls between Flynn and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak to news outlets. Unidentified officials were quoted saying the transcripts showed the two men discussing sanctions imposed on Russia by former President Barack Obama in late December for Moscow's meddling in the U.S. election aimed at helping Trump win.

Flynn had led Pence and other Trump aides to believe there had been no such talk about the Obama sanctions, with Pence then publicly relating the erroneous information on a news talk show.

Trump denied that he had directed Flynn to discuss the sanctions with Kislyak, but added, "I would have." The president said Flynn was doing his job to make contact with foreign officials ahead of the new administration taking power.

While several congressional panels, chiefly the intelligence committees in both the Senate and House of Representatives, are looking into those and other alleged contacts between Trump aides and Russia, the chairman of the House's main investigative committee has asked the U.S. Justice Department to launch an investigation into the leaks surrounding the Flynn-Kislyak calls.

Chaffetz has also agreed with Democrats that the Office of Government Ethics should investigate a Trump aide, Kellyanne Conway, for her blatant pitch from the White House briefing room in which she promoted clothing and fashion accessories sold by Trump's daughter, Ivanka, a violation of a longstanding ethics rule. The ethics office recently suggested to the White House that it could discipline Conway for the incident, for which the White House said she had been counseled.

In addition, Chaffetz has asked the White House to explain why Trump discussed and viewed documents concerning a North Korean missile test with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at Trump's Atlantic oceanfront mansion in Florida while nearby diners watched in fascination and captured the scene with their cellphone cameras. Trump said the two were only discussing details of what to say at a press conference on the missile test, but critics say they should have retreated to a secure room out of sight.

So far, however, Chaffetz has rebuffed calls by Democrats for a wholesale investigation of Trump's vast business links across the globe and the potential for conflicts with his presidential actions. Even as he has retained ownership of hotels, resorts, golf courses and consumer product ventures, the new president has turned over control of the businesses to his adult sons, Eric and Donald Trump Jr.

Miffed scientist wants Pluto
to get its old status returned

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Pluto may soon be called a planet, rather than a dwarf planet if some National Aeronautics and Space Administration scientists’ proposal gains traction.

Pluto was called a planet from 1930 to 2006, when it was demoted because there appeared to be other bodies similar to Pluto orbiting beyond it, making Neptune the outermost planet.

Pluto’s demotion angered some scientists who are still fighting for Pluto to be reinstated as a planet, including Alan Stern, the lead scientist with NASA’s New Horizon’s mission to Pluto.

Stern recently submitted a proposal to the International Astronomical Union to make Pluto a full-fledged planet.

“In the mind of the public, the word planet carries a significance lacking in other words used to describe planetary bodies,” according to the proposal. “In the decade following the supposed demotion of Pluto by the International Astronomical Union, many members of the public, in our experience, assume that alleged non-planets cease to be interesting enough to warrant scientific exploration.”

They also say planets should be round objects in space that are smaller than stars except for white dwarfs and neutron stars.

"A planet is a sub-stellar mass body that has never undergone nuclear fusion and that has sufficient self-gravitation to assume a spheroidal shape adequately described by a triaxial ellipsoid regardless of its orbital parameters," the proposal continued.

It’s unclear if the IAU will rule on the proposal.

Marijuana industry awaiting
clues on president's plans

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

From marijuana-laced candy to body lotion infused with marijuana, this controversial plant is becoming a big business in the United States as more states make it mainstream.

Marijuana, also known as cannabis, is now legal in 28 U.S. states for either medical or recreational use. Of those states, four of them legalized recreational marijuana last November, including California. At a dispensary in Los Angeles, the experience for customers is more similar to a trip to the winery or high-end retail store.

There are cannabis plants on well-lit display and available for a smell test, as well as other edibles. It’s an effort to dispel pot’s stigma and normalize its use.

Public opinion about legalization of marijuana has shifted in its favor. The Pew Research Center finds that 57 percent of those polled support the legal use of marijuana compared to 32 percent in 2006.

The cannabis industry is also growing. In 2016, the legalized marijuana business reached close to $7 billion. That number is expected to increase to more than $21 billion in five years, according to Arcview Market Research, which describes cannabis as the “fastest growing industry in the world.”

Underneath the growing public support and booming industry, federal law still considers marijuana as illegal, even though state law may say otherwise. The administration of former president Barack Obama took a hands-off approach and left it up to the states to govern and prosecute the use of marijuana. With the new Trump administration comes uncertainty.

The new attorney general, Jeff Sessions, has in the past been a critic of marijuana. In a 2016 Senate Drug Caucus hearing, Sessions, then a senator from Alabama, said, “Good people don’t smoke marijuana.”

In his Senate confirmation hearing for attorney general, Sessions was vague when answering a question from Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont.

Congress is responding to the growing popularity of marijuana. Four members of Congress formed a bipartisan Cannabis caucus to bridge the disconnect between state and federal government, and capitalize on the growing industry.

Shell app lets motorists pay
for gasoline with phones

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Autonomous automobiles aren't taking over American highways yet, but automation is becoming a bigger part of the driving experience.

A mobile phone app called Shell allows drivers to pay for a fill-up of gasoline from their in-car touchscreens. No debit or credit cards are involved, so the process will work for drivers who forgot their wallets.

The downside? The app will take care of the payment, but somebody, in most states, the driver, still has to get out and manually insert the fuel pump nozzle into the car's gas tank.

Here's how it works, assuming the user already has downloaded the Shell app and connected the mobile phone to the car's network. The car's touchscreen will guide the user to the nearest service station (a Shell station, of course, considering the app's name).

After pulling up to the gas pump, the user enters a PIN code and the gas pump's number. Payment takes place through ApplePay or PayPal, and a receipt is displayed onscreen and sent by email.

Then comes the hard part: Get out of the car, unlatch the fuel pump hose and insert it in the gas tank.

A couple more caveats about the Shell app:

The app works only on iPhones, not on other brands, although developers say they are working on a version for Android Pay.

The app is available only to owners of certain brands and models of cars, the Jaguar F-PACE, XE and XF, plus Land Rovers, and it works only in Britain. Those two car manufacturers and the Shell company, which collaborated on the app, say it will be rolling out in other global markets later this year.

Editor of Breitbart resigns
after child sex comment

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The editor of the far-right website Breitbart News, Milo Yiannopoulos, resigned Tuesday over remarks in which he appears to be defending sex with children, comments that also cost him a book deal and a high-profile speaking engagement.

“I would be wrong to allow my poor choice of words to detract from my colleagues' important reporting, so today, I am resigning from Breitbart effective immediately. This decision is mine alone,” he said Tuesday in New York.

Simon and Schuster said Monday it is canceling plans to publish Yiannopoulos' new book "Dangerous," and the American Conservative Union has uninvited him from speaking at its conference later this week.

A year-old video of a Yiannopoulos interview surfaced this week in which he appeared to condone sex between grown men and teenagers who have not yet reached the age of consent.

“We get hung up on this kind of child abuse stuff,” he said and called the idea of consent between two partners arbitrary and oppressive.

When he was asked if he is defending pedophilia, Yiannopoulos told the interviewer he does not know the meaning of the word.

“Pedophilia is not a sexual attraction to somebody 13 years old who is sexually mature. Pedophilia is attraction to children who have not reached puberty.”

The 33-year-old Yiannopoulos denies condoning sex with minors and says his own experience of being sexually abused when he was a child has “led me to believe I could say anything I wanted to on this subject, no matter how outrageous.”

The British-born Yiannopoulos is a strong supporter of President Donald Trump. He appears to enjoy provoking liberals and others during speeches and on television with comments on blacks, Muslims, and gays, even though Yiannopoulos is a homosexual and sometimes wears pearl necklaces during TV interviews.

Some of his critics dismiss him as nothing more than a fraud and a performance artist.

The University of California at Berkeley canceled a Yiannopoulos speech earlier this month when protests against him turned violent. Trump reacted by threatening to withhold federal aid to the school.

Development bank estimates
huge cost of Latin violence

By the Inter-American Development Bank
news staff

The direct annual cost of crime and violence in Latin America and the Caribbean is $261 billion, roughly what the region invests on infrastructure and double the average cost for developed countries, a study by the Inter-American Development Bank estimates.

This also is the equivalent income for 30 percent of the poorest population, underscoring the grave development impact violence has on the region. "The Costs of Crime and Violence: New Evidence, New Revelations in Latin America and the Caribbean" is a landmark effort to provide comparable crime costs numbers for 17 countries in the region, benchmarking them against six developed countries.

Crime and violence are at near crisis levels in Latin America and the Caribbean. The region accounts for 9 percent of the world’s population but contributes nearly one-third of its homicide victims, making it the most violent region outside of war zones. Six out of 10 robberies in the region involve violence and 90 percent of murders go unresolved. Its prisons are the most overcrowded in the world.

“Crime has reached alarming levels in many countries,” said Ana María Rodríguez, the manager of the bank's Institutions for Development Department. “By providing estimates of the costs of violence at the regional, sub-regional, and national levels, the study will help governments and international cooperation agencies better allocate resources, as well as design better policies to control and prevent crime.”

Crime-related costs are on average 3.55 percent of gross domestic product in Latin America, compared with 2.75 percent in the United States, 2.55 percent in the United Kingdom and 1.34 percent in Germany. If the region brings its crime costs down to the level of developed nations, it could increase its infrastructure investment by 50 percent.

The estimates are conservative as they include mainly direct costs of crime: public and private spending on security and the social costs. They do not include indirect costs such as changes in behavior due to fear of crime or the impacts of crime on the health of persons.

Public spending on crime-related areas in Latin America and the Caribbean is similar to the level in developed economies such as the U.S. and the United Kingdom.

The study provides a greater level of detail on how uneven the crime phenomenon is in the region and within countries. High-crime states in Brazil such as Alagoas y Ceará have costs and rates that mirror more those of Northern Triangle countries, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. Safer areas such as Bello Horizonte and Sao Paolo have numbers closer to Chile and Uruguay.

The study has chapters that analyze crime costs in Brazil, the Northern Triangle and the Caribbean and breaks new ground in calculating the direct costs of homicides as well as the lost income of the victims of homicides, an annual average of $10.5 billion for  2014 to 2015.

It also points out the steep costs of Latin America’s high incarceration rates. For the 2010-2014 period, the region spent $6.5 billion per year to maintain and build prisons. On top of this, imprisoned individuals forgo an additional $7.3 billion annually in income. The two numbers together amount to more than the conditional cash transfers for the region’s poor.

The study also notes that countries that spend more on prisons do not necessarily reap the benefits of less violence. The Bahamas and El Salvador, for instance, spend large sums in terms of gross domestic product on their penitentiary systems but suffer from high crime rates. Argentina and Uruguay, on the other hand, have much lower incarceration costs and lower crime rates.

Costs of violence against women in Latin America and the Caribbean double the world average, and the study points to future avenues for more research on gender violence.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017, Vol. 17, No. 38
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Latin news from the BBC up to the minute
Officials interested in portable stretcher

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An Oregon company showed off a portable device that lets one person move a victim in a rescue operation.

The Judicial Investigating Organization are going to test the device, officials there said Tuesday.

Representatives from Skedco, Inc. of Tuallatin, Oregon, displayed the stretcher, called a sked. The device originally an idea for hunters to tow deer carcasses, according to Bud Calkin, vice president and founder of the business.

The sked itself is a simple piece of polyethylene that forms a cocoon around the person placed in it. The stretcher has ropes to keep the person firmly placed within and, the group claimed, naturally tilts the head area upward to avoid drowning while a person is being carried across water. A simulated presentation of how the stretcher works took around five minutes or less for someone to place a subject in it.

Skedco’s main selling points for its stretcher to the Costa Rican government and other potential buyers emphasizes the portability, the fact it is lightweight, and that it can be used by one person to tow and potentially save someone injured.

Officials said that they want to try out the sked for use in search and rescue operations. At this time, the skeds could be seen in use by judicial agents of the main delegation in San José to test it.

Skedco’s Costa Rican office is based in San Pablo in Heredia. Calkin said sales of his stretcher picked up when the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration established guidelines for rescuing workers from confined spaces. 

Since the company was founded back in 1981, Calkin said that the U.S. military has purchased some 300,000 stretchers.

Central government drafts FOIA decree

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The central government has issued a draft of a freedom-of-information decree designed to give more access to official activity.

The public can make comments on the proposed decree through March 7, said Casa Presidencial.

The decree would require government agencies to maintain a webpage with 20 types of detailed information on its functioning. Among other data, the agency must publish on the site salaries and information and costs of any trips made by employees. The agency also must publish a list of any money disbursed as grants, scholarships or similar to any person.

The decree also would require agencies to designate a freedom-of-information officer to respond to complaints.

The decree says that agencies have to respond to public requests for information within 10 days unless the request is very complicated.  In that case, more time is allowed.

The penalty for public employees who do not provide information is vague and based on unstated established administrative sanctions.

Residents who are denied information have as recourse a complaint to the freedom-of-information officer.

The decree says that access to informant is a human right, but it also cites existing privacy legislation that may keep information secret.

The measure stops short of some freedom-of-information legislation that provides criminal penalties for willfully refusing to provide public information. It also stops short of providing a list of all money paid for any purpose by the agency with identification of the recipient.

The decree, the government said, represents the final step in efforts by the  Comisión Nacional de Gobierno Abierto to make access to information quicker and fuller.

The decree is available HERE as is a form to submit comments.

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Certified entrepreneurs ready to face world

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Some 122 new entrepreneurs, 110 women and 12 men, have received certificates from the Cartago-based university, Technológico de Costa Rica, and are off  to start or develop their own enterprises.

The university said that the 60-hour entrepreneur course graduated 50 persons in Cartago, 25 in San Carlos and 43 in Limón.

The program was an anti-poverty one supported by the Instituto Mixto de Ayuda Social, the nation's major financial aid agency.  Its Fideimas program can provide financing for small businesses and also provide technical assistance. Those eligible are women or families in poverty but with a productive activity.

The Instituto Mixto de Ayuda Social also helps small business by setting up regional fairs where products can be sold.