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(506) 2223-1327               Published Thursday, March 11, 2010,  in Vol. 10, No. 49      E-mail us
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Public employees to get entire week off for Easter
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Forget about any governmental business during Holy Week. Central government officials have declared the entire week to be a vacation.

Thursday and Friday, April 1 and 2, are legal holidays, and the Consejo de Gobierno and the Ministerio de Trabajo said Wednesday that the first three days of the week would be charged as vacation time for public employees. That means the Semana Santa holiday begins at the close of business Friday, March 26, just 15 days from today.

Public employees will not have to return to work until April 5, the day after Easter, although some may stretch the break by applying some of their own vacation time.

Other branches of government usually follow what the executive branch does, so San José will again be a ghost town for nine days, except for 
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the faithful who will be participating in the highly photogenic Easter rites that include processions through the town.

Officials said that a directive specifying the vacation time is in the works and that they expect to save public resources by closing the governmental doors.

Semana Santa is an important period for national tourism even though many Costa Ricans spend the week with relatives at the beach or in the mountains. Vacationers for the first time have the advantage of the Autopista del Sol highway that cuts the travel time to the central Pacific.



Protest by drivers met with tear gas from police
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Fuerza Pública officers used tear gas on demonstrators Wednesday as they moved to break up blockades set up by unlicensed taxi drivers.

At least two policemen were injured, and Rodrigo Arias, minister of the Presidencia, condemned the protests.

This is the first time that the central government took action to end the protests, which have been going on for years.

Eric Lacayo Rojas, director general of the Fuerza Pública, said that some officers were met with rains of rocks hurled by the protesters, called porteadores.

Five persons were detained, including three that Lacayo said vandalized a truck and threatened two occupants. Lacayo's officers and officers of the Policía del Tránsito impounded four cars that were involved in the road blockades, he said. That happened at the Rotonda de las Garantías Sociales in Zapote. One of the injured officers may have a broken a leg, Lacayo said. the officer was injured when hit by a protester's car.

In the past, police officers mostly observed the
protests. However, the central government is taking a stronger stand. Rodrigo Arias called the protests unreasonable and said that the purpose of the protest did not take into consideration efforts by the central government to solve the rift between licensed taxi drivers and porteadores.

The porteadores carry passengers on contract, they say, although licensed taxi drivers consider them a form of pirate driver. Porteadores usually charge less and work in low-income areas where licensed drivers sometimes will not go.

Rodrigo Arias said that two bills were working their way through the legislature that would remedy the tenuous situation of the porteadores. The first bill eliminates a section of the commercial code on which the porteadores have relied to legalize their existence. The second measure recognizes and regulates the business.

Arias lamented the delays that faced those on the way to work or school. 

At the legislature there was some action on the two bills, but none came to a final vote. Some lawmakers said that the key issue was protection of the passengers. Licensed taxi drivers must carry accident insurance.


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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, March 11, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 49

Costa Rica Expertise
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Another case of dead baby
captures public attention

             
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The third case of a dead baby in just a few days has captured the attention of Costa Ricans.

The latest case involves the parents of a 13 month old as suspects. Prosecutors in Nicoya are handling the case and are seeking confinement for a man with the last names of Fajardo Obando and a woman with the last names of Díaz Chavarría.

The parents told rescue workers that the child died from a fall, but an autopsy showed a severe head wound, broken bones in the back and broken limbs, said investigators. The parents were detained Tuesday in their home in Nicoya Centro.

Monday neighbors found the body of 3-year-old Yudith Ariel Blandón Orozco near her home in Tesalia de Ciudad Quesada. A subsequent examination showed that she died from having her throat cut. This is the case where a man gave a woman and her daughter a ride and then turned on the woman, threw her from the vehicle and ran over her. It appears the man, who is in custody, drove just a short way before killing the girl. There was no motive established, and the individuals were not acquainted, agents said.

The man has been remanded for a psychological examination. The mother survives.

Sunday a maid at a La Sabana hotel found the body of a 16-month-old girl who had had her mouth and nose taped shut to kill her. Agents detained the father and a 3 year old as they walked in La Sabana park. The motive for that crime is said to be revenge. Agents said that the man was separated from the mother who lives in Cartago. He took the children for an outing Saturday but never returned them. Instead he went to San José.


Saints have their days

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

St. Joseph stands for gallo pinto, and St. Patrick stands for . . . well, you know.

The two saints have their days soon. St. Joseph is remembered March 19. And St. Patrick's Day is Wednesday.

St. Joseph is the patron of San José, and the festival will be this weekend with the traditional giant gallo pinto festival Sunday on Paseo Colón. The event, endorsed by the municipality, is sponsored by Tío Pelón, the rice and bean company. Last year 90,000 plates were served.

There are no governmental events for St. Patrick's Day but the informal ones are many.


Our reader's opinion
Helmet law is misguided
and stifles rider's freedom


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

In Costa Rica's rush to catch up to perceived "first" world status by emulating the "golden land of bounty" of it's once wealthy big brother to the north, an example of the misguided wholesale buy-in, to all things "first worldish" is the helmet law.

Just as big oil, big chemical, big pharma, the AMA, and big banks/insurance, have taken over things in the U.S. and Europe by enslaving the populace in the form of disguised tax increases, such as the outrageous fine just adapted here, the equivalent of $363 for motorcyclists not wearing a helmet.

Just who makes out in this type of silliness? Big government, and big business.

The oil/chemical companies get to keep drilling, manufacturing and selling oil-based polluting products like those big bulky life-stifling plastic helmets they want us riders to all buy and wear.
 
The average Joe, freedom from unreasonable, and unjustified taxation, and continued assault on liberty makes us all the losers, and oh, also, a  little thing like the environment, and the future are at stake, as well.
 
So Costa "once" Rica, is now buckling under the tide, as well.

Of course no one wants to have to clean up after the occasional head that got splattered all over the pavement after a fatal motorcycle accident. But just as the false sense of security one gets being enclosed within a steel chassised automobile of which there are 10 times more crippling head injuries than moto accidents, those big, bulky helmets can also give a similar false sense of safety.
 
The hundreds of thousands of helmeted drivers are paying the heavier price, along with the rest of us for all the heretofore hidden costs these helmets burden us with.
 
Hari Singh Khalsa
Cóbano

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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 weekday.

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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.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, March 11, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 49

Prosecutors looking into development at Punta Leona
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The prosecutor's office in Garabito has confirmed that it has launched an investigation into a criminal complaint by would-be purchasers of property at the canceled VIVA Punta Leona project.

A lawyer for the buyers, José Joaquín Ureña, said that 34 individuals are involved and the amount involved is $1.7 million.

In a press release, the buyers said that they had filed a criminal case against the developers. Ureña confirmed that and said that a civil action was filed against Stewart Title Costa Rica and Punta Leona Beach Club, although both firms may not be directly involved.

The buyer's press release said that Stewart Title escrowed the money buyers gave as down payments and then followed the sales contract by remitting the money to the developers.

The buyers said that VIVA Punta Leona sold 36 pre-construction condominiums to purchasers from Costa Rica, the United States and Canada in 2007. The project’s Phase I sales release featured one- , two- and three-bedroom condominiums that ranged in size from approximately 800 to more than 2,000 square feet with per-unit prices from $189,900 to $749,900, generating total sales of $16.3 million, they said.

Ureña said that a survey of the property involved this week showed that the land may not belong to Punta Leona. The
beach club, named for the shape of a headlands that protrudes into the Pacific, has as members many Costa Ricans who have been going there for 30 years. It is north of Jacó on the central Pacific.

The prosecutor's office said that it would take three to four months to investigate the case and to see if it will move into a preliminary hearing.

Ureña said the case is against Eugenio Gordienko and his sons, Boris and Pablo Gordienko, as well as William Sarbok, Mario Pacheco Carranza and Mario Pacheco Coronado. The buyers also named Harold E. Wright of Punta Dominical. The project was by Beach One Developments, they said.

The buyers said that each put down 10 percent of the purchase price and that they were notified in a letter dated June 6, 2008, that the project was officially canceled and that deposits would be refunded.

The letter specified that the money would be returned to purchasers within a 10-month term, they said.

Although the buyers say that the developers took advantage of them, there are a number of unfinished projects and unhappy buyers in Costa Rica due to the economic downturn and real estate decline. In this case, the buyers joined together and hired a lawyer.

The VIVA Punta Leona Web site still is active, but the postings of news stories seems to have stopped in May 2008. The site makes ample use of the Punta Leona name.


Expat's death in Golfito appears to point to murder
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Golfito hotel operator found tied to concrete and floating in the ocean Monday was murdered and not a suicide, according to details from his mother Wednesday.

The man, Kelly Robert Nutting, had his hands tied behind his back, said the mother, Linda Nutting. She spoke by telephone from Golfito. Nutting was draped in a white sheet and appears to have been strangled.

The Grants Pass, Oregon, native has spent years in Golfito managing the family hotel. Mrs. Nutting said that she and her husband purchased the Hotel Delfina 18 years ago with an eye for a place to retire. They are frequent visitors.

Judicial agents were conducting an extensive investigation of the hotel Wednesday, Mrs. Nutting said. She was awaiting the arrival of her husband, Jack, who was going to accompany the body of their son from Heredia and the judicial morgue to Golfito. She said her son loved the area and would be buried there. A funeral is pending.

Kelly Nutting was a U.S. Navy veteran who worked in and
around the hotel, shunning the rough nightlife of Golfito,
said his mother. He would have been 39 in September.

Fishermen noticed the body floating in the Golfo Dulce not far from the Golfito docks and called the Guardacostas, who recovered the body. Some police officers initially suggested that Nutting had been depressed and might have ended his own life, a theory that has been discarded after a close examination of the body.

From the pieces of concrete tied to the body it is clear that the murderer did not want Nutting to be found. If his body had not surfaced, he would have joined the growing list of foreigners who have vanished in Costa Rica. They include Michael George Dixon, 33, who vanished in Playa Tamarindo in mid-October; David Gimelfarb, 28, an Illinois resident, who vanished Aug. 11 after he went hiking alone in Parque Nacional Rincón de la Vieja, and Ostional expat Greg Snell, who vanished there Feb. 18.

Also missing are two Austrian expats, 66 and 68, who lived in a home across the gulf from Golfito in Puerto Jiménez. They vanished around Christmas. Agents have opened an investigation and have questioned a local man who has been driving a car owned by one of the missing men.


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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, March 11, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 49

Escazú Christian Fellowship
xx
Guoadalupe Missionary Baptist Church



Minister says gambling tax would raise $100 milllion

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The minister of Hacienda told lawmakers Wednesday that a 2 percent tax on the gross income of casinos and other betting sites would raise $100 million a year.

The minister is Jenny Phillips, and she was speaking to the  Comisión Permanente de Asuntos Hacendarios promoting a bill that includes the new tax as well as other regulations.
That means that the ministry, which handles the nation's finances, has estimated the take by casinos and others here at $5 billion a year.

She said that the income from the tax would be used to finance social programs and citizen security.

The government has been tightening controls on casinos, and president-elect Laura Chinchilla is expected to do even
more because she sees the casinos as centers of prostitution.

Last year the government ordered casinos to close at 5 a.m. and reopen at 3 p.m. That was met with some approval by casino operators because they were able to eliminate about a third of their staff for a period that did not generate much business.

The idea of a tax has been floating around for years. One complication is that many sportsbooks and online betting sites do not bring money into Costa Rica. The cash goes to other countries while a lot of the work is done here.

The mixed approach of the government has been confusing. Rules to discourage gambling conflict with proposals to generate tax dollars. Then there is the concern that sportsbooks will simply relocate to more hospitable countries cutting jobs for Costa Ricans.



Regulator cuts prices of gasoline and petroleum products

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The nation's regulatory agency ordered a 6 percent cut in the price of gasoline and an 8 percent cut in diesel Wednesday.

The agency, the Authoridad Reguladora de Servicios Públicos, was responding to the strength of the colon against the U.S. dollar and world petroleum prices, it said.

Super gasoline goes from 627 colons (about $1.16) per liter to 593, a reduction of 34 colons or about 6.3 U.S. cents. Plus gasoline goes from 599 to 566 colons, a
decrease of 33 colons. Diesel drops from 534 to 393 colons, some 91.3 cents, a reduction of 40 colons.

There are similar reductions for other types of petroleum products supplied by the national monopoly, Refinadora Costarricense de Petróleo, S.A.

The calculations were based on prices and exchange rates from Jan. 28 to Feb. 11, so the regulating agency is always behind the curve. The new prices are effective when published in the government's legal newspaper in about a week.


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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, March 11, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 49

Medical vacations in Costa Rica

British fair trade foundation
promotes better prices


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The British-based Fairtrade Foundation works to improve the lives of farmers in developing countries, by guaranteeing fair prices for their products and investing in social infrastructure.  The organization also tries to convince British shoppers to switch to fair-trade products.

The aim is to raise awareness for fair-trade products, in this case, tea. The Fairtrade Foundaton would like Britons to change their regular brand of tea for a fair-trade one. Barbara Crowther is the foundation's director of communications.

"Here in Britain, we drink a lot of tea, but only one in ten cups are fair-trade, which means we're paying a fair price to the tea growers in the developing world," said Ms. Crowther. "And we know that in India, and in Africa, in Uganda and Tanzania, there are lots of farmers who've met all the social and environmental standards to be able to sell the tea as fair-trade, but the companies are still dragging their heels, they're still not buying it on fair-trade terms."

On the slopes of Mount Elgon in eastern Uganda, the Gumutindo farms show the legacy of fair-trade dealings. The 7,000 farmers and their families have schools and medical centers. Top prices and yearly crop bonuses have enabled these Ugandans to build their own warehouses to store their coffee. The guaranteed prices protect them from market fluctuations.

Six thousand kilometers away, Fiona Nakusi is here in London representing Gumatindo's farmers and meeting with potential clients.  She says she's seen great progress since the farms became fair trade certified in 2004.

"In the fair-trade system the farmer gets a higher advance price and at the end of the year they also get bonus payments," said Ms. Nakusi.

The Fairtrade Foundation is helping farmers all over the world. In addition to tea and coffee producers in Africa and India, the foundation is trying to get better prices for all sorts of products — including bananas from the Dominican Republic.

This London exhibition is showcasing fair-trade products, Olive oil from the Palestinian territories, chocolate, shirts made from fair-trade cotton and dried fruit.

"Are you liking your banana?," asked Andy Muscat.

Andy Muscat says his family does its best to support products that help producers.

"Anything like oranges, or bananas or mandarins we try to buy fair-trade," he said. "Coffee, tea, organic or fair trade, we try to buy all the time."


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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, March 11, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 49


Latin American news
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Arias blisters Cubans
over political prisoners


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

In an unexpected declaration, President Óscar Arias Sánchez issued a blistering critique of the Cuban government and its policy of jailing dissidents.

Without fanfare, Casa Presidencial sent the message that Arias had addressed to the national and international press. He noted that Latin American leaders were in Cancun when Orlando Zapata Tamayo, a Cuban dissident, died in prison as a result of a hunger strike.

He said he also was speaking on behalf of Guillermo Fariñas Hernández, who now is on a hunger strike there seeking freedom for Cuba's political prisoners. "In no truly free country does one go to prison for thinking differently," said Arias. He said every political prisoner is an affirmation that Cuba is an authoritarian regime, despite what the leaders may say. 

He called upon Cuba to demonstrate to the world the first signs of transition to democracy by releasing its political prisoners. He also predicted he would get intense criticism form Cuba for voicing his opinion.

There was no explanation why Arias at this time chose to release the document. His criticism has been muted recently as the country sought special petroleum prices from Venezuela, a Cuban ally. However, Arias has less than two months remaining in office.

TDMA lines are at risk,
Defensoría reports


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Telephone users can lose their TDMA service by not paying a bill on time, having their cell phone stolen or by simply losing the device. The Defensoría de los Habitantes is investigating the legal position of the phone company, the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad.

The company known as ICE is trying to cut down on the number of TDMA lines even though there are some 265,000 users of the older system. The company said that it is trying to free up the electronic specturm in anticipation of an auction by the regulatory agency, said the Defensoria, which added that the company confirmed the practice.

The Defensoría said that it was warning the public that they could lose thir cell phone line through no fault of their own.

The TDMA system is the oldest of the three now in use.






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