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(506) 2223-1327       Published Monday, Feb. 23, 2009,  in Vol. 9, No. 37       E-mail us
Jo Stuart
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Security minister has new plan after bad weekend
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The security minister plans to outline another initiative today designed to confront the criminality and violence in the country in a more effective way, according to a ministry release.

The session comes on the heels of a weekend in which four persons died by assassination in the Central Valley and after a week when three persons were murdered the same way on the central Pacific coast.

The minister, Janina del Vecchio, outlined her philosophy in the Spanish-language daily La Nación Saturday in which she said that the problem of citizen insecurity and crime was not just the responsibility of her ministry, Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública. In her op-ed piece she also repeated the Arias administration contention that crime must be countered with what is called an integral approach that includes tackling extreme poverty, rehabilitation of drug addicts and creating more opportunities for certain sectors of society.

Ironically, the minister also criticized the poor state of police buildings around the country and blamed the fact on appointments of police officials for political reasons instead of for preparation or merit. The minister herself had no previous police experience when she was named to the job by President Óscar Arias Sánchez of whom she is a confidant.

The essay contained a touch of despair as Ms. del Vecchio said the Arias administration had increased certain police budgets by 84 percent and confiscated 175,000 crack rocks under her watch. But she said the crime problem was everyone's.

She also called on the news media to exercise social responsibility to create a policy of confidence, harmony and calm. A major part of the Arias election platform was attacking crime, but citizen concern and the apparent crime rate has increased since his election in 2006. Murders, the statistic most closely tracked, increased 25 percent from 2007 to 2008, according to the Judicial Investigating Organization.

The crime wave almost certainly is affecting tourism, immigration and foreign investment.

There was no detailed description of what the minister plans to announce today. The ministry said her plan was to distritalizar the Fuerza Pública, which apparently means to put in districts smaller
than the existing ones, perhaps as small as a traditional police beat. The regulation will be in the form of a decree, the ministry said.

The murders this weekend appeared to be unrelated to one another.

Someone really wanted to kill Michael Ortega in Alajuelita. He was the victim of four shotgun blasts in the back at a vacant lot in the San Felipe section. He died early Sunday shortly after arriving by ambulance at Hospital San Juan de Dios.

Also Sunday San José municipal employee  Francisco Chavarría died from three bullets and a stab wound in La Carpio, a low income area in west San José. He was returning home about 5 a.m.

Saturday a man identified as Carlos Manuel Ampie died when a man on a motorcycle gunned him down as he left a store in Tibás north of San José. That was about 8 p.m.

Two hours later Óscar Meoño Barrantes died in Coronado when a gunman in a car shot him in the face.

On the Pacific coast last week, two businessmen, including a U.S. citizen, died in their own establishments at the hands of unknown gunmen and two men on a motorcycle gunned down the president of the Puntarenas major league soccer club as he rode in his pickup.

The last initiative offered by the security minister was to prevent robberies in which victims were forced to use their debit card to access bank funds via automatic teller machines.

The ministry praised her plan Thursday and said that such robberies had declined. It was Nov. 25 when the security minister, Janina del Vecchio, asked banks to shut down their automatic teller machines from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m.

The purpose was to prevent what police call the Paseo Millionario whereby bandits force a victim to withdraw funds from an ATM.

In October there were 10 such robberies reported to authorities, said the security ministry. In December only four were reported, the ministry said. No figures were given for January or for November.

This weekend La Nación reported that San Carlos was experiencing a wave of such robbers between 7 a.m. and 11 a.m.

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January exports show dip
in circuits and produce

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The good news is that January exports to Canada increased 9.7 percent over the same month in 2008. The bad news is that total January exports from Costa Rica were $600.6 million, a number which represents a 19 percent decline from the same month the year before.

This was the news from the Ministerio de Comercio Exterior, which cited bad weather, the world economic crisis and the credit crunch for the export sector. Millions of dollars of bananas spoiled during the Caribbean flooding at the end of January.

Exports just to the United States declined from $268 million in January 2008 to $220.7 million in January 2009, said the ministry. That is a decline of $47.3 million, it said.

Double digit declines also were noted in exports to Spain, the United Kingdom, Belgium and Germany. Food products were one sector that showed a decline, the ministry said.

The biggest decline, however was with integrated circuits and computer parts, said the ministry. The decline for these manufactured goods was 30 percent or about $56 million. The ministry said that in times of economic stress computers are not replaced as regularly by firms and individuals.

Another residency cédula case
gets Sala IV support

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Sala IV constitutional court has found in favor of another foreigner who received an appointment to renew his residency cédula 11 months in the future.

The court said the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería had violated the principles of efficiency, simplicity and speed of the organization.

The appeal came from a man identified as Cristian Conti, who said that he contacted the immigration department call center and received an appointment 11 months away.

Conti is not alone. Such extended appointments are the rule as immigration tries to become more computerized.

Conditions at famous park
questioned by local media

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

With pollution affecting many tourism beaches in Costa Rica, why should Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio be any different?

That is the question Spanish-language newspapers and television are asking after reporters and photographers found rusting hulks of official vehicles and reports emerged of a polluted lagoon.

The park, on the central Pacific coast, is one of the crown jewels of Costa Rica, but much of the admission fees go elsewhere and are not returned to maintain the facility.

The Ministerio del Ambiente, Energía y Telecomunicaciones has to repair a septic tank that is connected to facilities used by staffers there. The tank collapsed and the outflow is going directly into a waterway, said the Ministerio de Salud.

$4.7 million given for jobs

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The United Nations and the government of Spain have allocated $4.7 million for a jobs program in the Cantons of Desamparados and Upala. The program is designed for persons 15 to 24.

Our reader's opinion
How dare Ecuador take
such unreasonable steps

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Concerning the A.M. Costa Rica story on Ecuador's expulsion of U.S. interlopers:

How dare Ecuador exercise their sovereign right to self governance and self determination! I cannot believe that the Ecuadorian government has the nerve and the backbone(!) to stand up for themselves! Pity the fool who can think on their own! Such a travesty of justice is this!

After all, isn't the U.S. on a mission to install democracy and its tenants across the globe? Aren't U.S. troops and support personnel on a mission of freedom? Rebuilding? Education?

It's unconscionable that this "left-leaning" government should be allowed to stand at all considering the war, blight and destruction it is wreaking on the world at large.. The way the Ecuadorian military is anchored off the shores of continents around the world with cannons ablaze on a mission of peace and prosperity! Ecuador's air force meanwhile, pummels innocent civilian populations into submission. Let's not forget about their high tech asymmetrical warfare prowess. Oh, the scoundrels they are! Criminals!

Just as an aside, what would Homeland Security personnel be doing stationed in a foreign land? It sure seems like this outfit has a long reach after such a short but meteoric rise. Maybe Ecuador should just turn over the keys to the kingdom right now and spare their citizenry the privilege of being liberated. The number one offense here being the fact that Ecuador's national boundaries happen to contain within them a measure of black gold. Tsk Tsk.
Dennie Sartuga

EDITOR'S NOTE: The dispute in Ecuador is the country's objection to any role by the United States in a selection of personnel for anti-drug training paid for by the United States.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Feb. 23, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 37

Tiribi bridge
Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes photo
Steel girders parallel the existing highway to widen the bridge over the Río Tiribi
Traffic on the Autopista Próspero Fernández has been anything but free-flowing as workmen install new sections of bridge at the Río Tiribi and paving crews reduce the traffic to one lane in either direction.
repaving highway
Paving crews take half the highway

Highway officials promise relief within two weeks
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The agency supervising the highway to the Pacific promises that the road work between La Sabana and the Escazú intersection will be finished in two weeks. The construction has been a pain for motorists because the highway, the Autopista Próspero Fernández, has been the scene of continual congestion.

The Consejo Nacional de Concesiones said that the restructured highway will have four lanes in each direction from the Gimnasio Nacional in Parque la Sabana to the intersection with the Circunvalación, the highway that skirts the metro area to the south. From there the Próspero Fernández will have three lanes in each direction to the Multiplaza intersection.

From there and to Ciudad Colón, the highway will be two lanes in each direction. Part of the route is that way now.

It is the first 3.5 kilometers (about 2.2 miles) from the national gymnasium to Trejos Montealegre that will be ready shortly, said the agency.

Workmen are using a lot of recycled pavement as base for the project, the consejo said.
In addition, officials said that a pedestrian overpass will be  constructed near the building of the Contraloría de la República. The bridge will connect Parque la Sabana to the south side of the highway. Now pedestrians take their chances on the existing four lanes.

There is a steady flow of people, many of them runners from the Costa Rican Tennis Club, who use the various tracks in the park.

Other bridges are planned for Multiplaza, Guachipelín, Pozos and Río Oro de Santa Ana.  Also planned are turnouts for passenger buses to load and unload.

The consejo also said that workmen were to pour concrete last weekend for the platform for new lanes at the Río Tiribi bridge.

The $265 million construction job includes a new stretch between Ciudad Colon and Orotina. That work, some  38.8 kilometers (24 miles) of new roadbase, is not expected to be completed until 2010. The resulting Autopista del Sol will be a toll road.

The route is expected to reduce driving time to the Pacific coast.

Teatro Nacional offering a little culture for lunch
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Workers downtown will have a chance to fit in a little culture starting Tuesday at the Teatro Nacional. The theater is introducing its Teatro al Mediodia in which quality productions of from 30 to 40 minutes will be presented during the lunch hour.

Many Costa Ricans only know the theater from the outside
or from tours of the facilities, said Jody Steiger, who is promoting the program. Each Tuesday will see another production. Tuesday the pianist Ramiro Ramírez and Raquel Ramírez, a mezzosoprano, will inaugurate the series with a recital of songs by Costa Rican composers.

Costa Ricans can attend for a 500-colons ticket, less than $1. Tourists, on the other hand, will be asked to pay 5,000 colons, the theater said.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Feb. 23, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 37

World Jewish leaders praise ouster of Holocaust-denying Bishop Williamson
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

World Jewish leaders have praised Argentina's decision to order the departure of an ultra-traditionalist British Catholic bishop who caused an international uproar by denying the Holocaust. Bishop Richard Williamson has been given 10 days to leave the country or face expulsion.

Argentina's interior minister, Florencio Randazo, said that the bishop's statements on the Holocaust profoundly insulted Argentine society, the Jewish community and all of humanity by denying the historic truth. The bishop denies that Jews died in gas chambers and has said no more than 300,000 died in Nazi concentration camps. 

Aldo Donzis, president of the Argentine Delegation of Israeli Associations says the decision taken by the government was a reason for great celebration.

"We think it was a very good decision considering that this is a person who constantly denies the Holocaust in a country that is part of the taskforce — an international group made up of another 23 nations — to investigate and commemorate the Holocaust, and he continues to deny it, despite the fact that his brothers have told him to stop saying those things," he said.

Elan Steinberg, vice president of the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants, said, "the
government of Argentina has advanced the cause of truth and struck a blow against hate".

Ronald Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress said the Argentine government's decision was commendable, even more so because the government made it clear that those who are Holocaust deniers are not welcome in the country.

He called on other governments to follow Argentina's lead and crack down on anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial in their countries.

Williamson headed a traditionalist seminary near Buenos Aires until he was removed from that job earlier this month. The Argentine interior ministry said he had not declared his activity as head of the seminary on immigration forms and had concealed the true motive for his stay in the country.

Bishop Williamson was one of four ultra-traditionalist bishops whose excommunications were lifted by Pope Benedict in January.

The pope's decision to open the door for him to eventually be fully readmitted into the church was met with widespread criticism by Jews and many Catholics. The Vatican, which has ordered Williamson to retract his comments on the Holocaust, said it had no comment on the expulsion order by Argentina.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Feb. 23, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 37

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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.

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Republican Lugar backs
loosening Cuban regulations

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Sen. Richard Lugar, a Republican from Indiana, is urging the United States to reconsider its relations with Cuba.

The lawmaker said restrictive U.S. policies have failed to achieve their stated goal of promoting democracy in Cuba.

Lugar's views were expressed in a letter accompanying a report set for release today.

The report was prepared by Republican staff members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who recently traveled to Cuba. The document calls for lifting Bush administration restrictions on travel and remittances to Cuba. The report does not ask for an end to the 47-year-old U.S. trade embargo.

During his presidential campaign, Barack Obama said he would end the ban on travel to Cuba and on the transmission of remittances.

Lugar said the election of President Obama and the replacement of Fidel Castro by his brother Raúl have created an opportunity for the U.S. to reevaluate a complex relationship.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has ordered a review of U.S. policies toward Cuba.

Chavez makes two visits
to see ailing Fidel Castro

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has met twice with the ailing former Cuban leader Fidel Castro during a short visit to Havana.

Cuba's state-run media says the first meeting took place after Mr. Chavez arrived Friday night.

The Venezuelan leader met again with Castro and his brother, Cuban President Raúl Castro, Saturday before the afternoon departure of Chávez.

The former Cuban president and Chávez were reported to have discussed their countries' ties and the global economic crisis and its consequences for Latin America and the Caribbean.

No images of Fidel Castro were released from the meetings.  He has not been seen in public since 2006 when he underwent surgery and ceded power to his younger brother.

The trip to Cuba was first since Chávez won a referendum this month that removes term limits on his presidency and allows him to seek re-election.

Jo Stuart
Real Estate
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