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Onions honored
for 21st time

Santa Ana was the country's onion capital over the weekend when producers presented the 21th annual edition of the Feria de la Cebolla. Yellow and purple onions were priced at 700 colons a kilo, about 64 U.S. cents a pound. Among the visitors was Xinia Chaves Quirós, vice minister of  Agricultura.

Onion fair
Ministerio de Agricultura y Ganadería photo

Teachers union calls off negotiations on pay hike
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The union representing teachers is breaking off negotiations with the central government even though another session was scheduled for today.

The action injects uncertainty into the nation's labor scene and may mean a general strike in April.

Casa Presidencial quickly issued a statement regretting the action by the Asociación de Profesores de Segunda Enseñanza. It called on Beatriz Ferreto, the president of the teachers union, and other leaders to reconsider their position.

The teacher's union has about 24,000 members. The union has been the spearpoint of the efforts by public employees to receive more than an across-the-board 5,000-colons pay raise for the first half of the year.  The amount is about $10 a month. Joining with the
 union is the Asociación Nacional de Educadores, another union.

Central government officials have met twice with union representatives, and each time they seemed to think that they had a deal.  Last March 5 union leaders  and the government appeared to have reached an accord to head off a strike, but the ranks and file rejected it.

Monday's session was to consider revisions. The  Asociación de Profesores de Segunda Enseñanza said that, instead, its representatives would deliver a document rejecting the proposal and terminating negotiations.

Although the year is in its third month, usually a salary agreement will be retroactive to Jan. 1. But new negotiations will seek to set a pay raise for the second half of the year starting July 1.

A stronger quake rattles upper gulf of Nicoya
A 4.8-magnitude quake took place Monday at 2:02 p.m. The epicenter was estimated to be in the upper gulf of Nicoya about 20 kilometers above Puntarenas Centro and just west of Playa Costa de Pajaros, according to the Laboratorio de Ingeniería Sísmica. Earlier story below.

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

That bump may not have been the St. Patrick's Day party next door. The country experienced a wave of earthquakes over the weekend.

Friday was only 13 minutes old when a 3.7 quake rattled the Jacó area. At 4:22 a.m. a second quake took place in about the same area, northeast of Playa Hermosa. It was estimated at 3.4 magnitude.

Then at 5:33 a.m. there was a 3.5 quake just 5.4 kilometers north of Golfito centro. That is less than 3.5 miles.
At 7:22 a.m. a 3.8 quake took place up the coast near Dominical. There have been a number of similar quakes in this area for the last month, noted
the Laboratorio de Ingeniería Sísmica.

Saturday saw three quakes, but these were inland. A 3.9 or 4.2 magnitude quake took place five miles northeast of Pinol de Upala in Alajuela. That is close to the Nicaraguan border. That was at 9:21 a.m. That night two 3.1 magnitude quakes took place only seconds apart at about 8:31 p.m. Both were about 20 kilometers, about 13 miles, north of San Ramón near the community of San Jorge. The Red Sismológica Nacional attributed these to subduction of the Coco Tectonic plate by the Caribbean plate.

Then Sunday at 6:57 p.m. there was a 3.2 quake about 9 kilometers south southwest of Ciudad Neily in southern Costa Rica. That was followed by a 3.1 magnitude quake at 7:21 p.m. near the border with Panamá.

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Walking and motorcycles
are two deadly pursuits

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two ways to avoid becoming a traffic fatality or an injury statistic are to stay off motorcycles and to avoid walking on the highways.

Deaths of motorcyclists and pedestrians continue to be a high percentage of those killed on the nation's roads.

In 2011 traffic deaths were 967, said the Cruz Roja. The statistics show that 110 of these were persons stuck by vehicles.

According to Cruz Roja 2011 statistics 6.13 persons are injured each day on the nation's highways. The total last year was 2,236, according to the rescue agency.

Some 15 persons died that way and 31 suffered serious injuries in February. In all, 41 persons died in traffic accidents last month.

Most of the injuries and deaths happened in the province of San José. Those who drive country roads know that most do not have adequate shoulders for pedestrians and that walking is a primary means of transport.

At least two pedestrians died over the weekend.

Judicial agents in Pérez Zeledón said that a 38-year-old man with the last name of Alvarado died on the Interamericana highway at the entrance to barrio Los Ángeles Saturday night. Investigators said the man tried to cross the highway and was struck by a pickup.

That also happened on Ruta 27, the Caldera highway, when a 28-year-old man with the last name of Padilla tried to cross, said agents. The site was six kilometers west of the Ciudad Colón toll station, they said.

The Instituto Nacional de Seguros reported in November that the bulk of the motorcycle owners in Costa Rica evaded obligatory insurance. The national insurance company estimated that there were 382,027 motorcycles on the road in 2011.

The company was trying to justify an insurance hike for this type of vehicle when it estimated that persons killed or injured as a result of motorcycles in 2011 would be 5,593. Motorists who watch motorcycle drivers snaking their way through traffic sometimes at high speeds might be inclined to think the estimate is low.

The Consejo Nacional de Vialidad, the road agency, reported that 72 motorcyclists died in 2011. The agency blamed high speeds for most of the mishaps.

Last month saw 13 persons killed in motorcycle mishaps, according to Consejo figures.

Both the statistics from the Consejo de Vialidad and the Cruz Roja are low because they do not count those who died later in the hospital. In the case of the Cruz Roja, its statistics lack those fatalities with injuries so acute that the rescue agency never is called.

Find out what the papers
said today in Spanish

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Here is the section where you can scan short summaries from the Spanish-language press. If you want to know more, just click on a link and you will see and longer summary and have the opportunity to read the entire news story on the page of the Spanish-language newspaper but translated into English.

Translations may be a bit rough, but software is improving every day.

When you see the Summary in English of news stories not covered today by A.M. Costa Rica, you will have a chance to comment.

This is a new service of A.M. Costa Rica called Costa Rica Report. Editor is Daniel Woodall, and you can contact him HERE!
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Development bank seeks Latin American economies as resilient
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Latin America and the Caribbean remain resilient to a possible slowdown in world economic growth that could stem from a deepening of the debt crisis in Europe and a deceleration in China, according to the Inter-American Development Bank’s 2012 Macroeconomic Report released Sunday during the Bank’s annual meeting.

The report outlines two major potential economic risks the region could face in the next year: a faster-than-expected deceleration of China’s economy and deepening economic problems in Europe. Using a global economic model, the study concludes that even if both of these two major events were to occur, Latin America and the Caribbean might suffer only a relatively mild recession.

The study presented to the bank’s Board of Governors, “The World of Forking Paths,” offers a comprehensive analysis of potential risks affecting the region in the short and medium-term, providing an assessment of main macroeconomic vulnerabilities and strengths as well as policy recommendations.

“We are cautiously optimistic for Latin America and the
 Caribbean. The region has grown strongly in the last couple of years and it has shown it is resilient to shocks," said Santiago Levy, vice president for sectors and knowledge for the bank. “Most importantly, the region has developed a set of policy tools that have proven to be effective during economic downturns.”

The report notes that a number of countries, especially commodity exporters, have accumulated international reserves that would help cushion them from international financial turbulence and have reduced external liabilities.

Breaking with the past, most countries were able to implement effective fiscal stimulus packages to smooth the last downturn, and have gained valuable experience in countercyclical fiscal policymaking, said the report.

Most of the larger economies in the region have adopted flexible exchange rate regimes that make it easier for them to smooth fluctuations. And, several countries in recent years have implemented more sophisticated monetary policies and employed macro-prudential tools, such as the active use of Bank-liquidity requirements and measures to slow currency appreciation, which have all enhanced the region’s resilience against another possible international financial crisis.

Arts festival brings change
in water cutoff schedule

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The national water company was supposed to cut off the supply to 550,000 metro area residents Saturday. But the company, the Instituto Costarricense de Acueductos y Alcantarillados, changed plans and will shut off service March 31 instead, it said.

The cutoff was required so that work could be done on the second phase of the Planta Alta de Tres Ríos, said the company late last week.

However, the company decided to change the date because the Festival International de las Artes was taking place in the San José and Desamparado areas, it said. Once again the time of the outage is estimated to be from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The company said that many barrios in San José would be affected and also La Unión, Curridabat, Desamparados, Montes de Oca, Goicoechea and Coronado.

The company known as AyA said that tanker trucks would be assigned to various areas to provide water for those who forget to fill containers before the cutoff. The locations will be hospitals, clinics, churches, the Cruz Roja and central parks in the various communities. Local police will know exactly where.
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night raids
Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública/Paul Gamboa
Police check identifications outside a local bar while others load boxes of presumed smuggled clothing.
Another police sweep results in 21 arrests of 1,541 questioned
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A combined police force swept through bars and nightspots in the San José area Thursday night and early Friday. They made 21 arrests and even confiscated boxes containing 800 articles of clothing.

In addition, the police action resulted in the closure of a San Pedro bar.
Four persons were held for violating drug laws, and seven were
held because of outstanding warrants, said officers. Marijuana, crack, cocaine, untaxed alcohol, a firearm and even a vehicle were confiscated. The Policía Fiscal were involved, and assisted in the confiscation of the articles of clothing, which are presumed to be smuggled.

Polcie said they questioned and checked the identifications of 1,541 persons and the documents on 444 vehicles and 94 motorcycles. They also checked the papers of 16 security guards and said they found three who did not have the permits to work.

Mainstream media seem to have surrendered political discourse
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A new executive order by U.S. President Barack Obama is inflaming the right wing, which claims it lays the groundwork for martial law in peacetime.

Other points of view say the measure is nothing more than what other presidents have issued and simply repeats much of a 1950 executive order.

The order in question is the National Defense Resources Preparedness that showed up on the White house Web site Friday.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the debate is that the traditional news media does not seem to be involved. A Web search engine shows page after page of commentary, some supporting Obama's action and others expressing fear for the Republic. But absent is any reference to what may be considered the mainstream press.

An exception is Canada Free Press. Editor Judi McLeod. She said in her publication Sunday:

“...Early Sunday morning and the AWOL mainstream media has missed the proverbial boat on the latest Executive Order signed Friday by President Barack Hussein Obama. Executive Order 'National Defense Resources Preparedness,' in effect nationalizes all the energy, food and water currently existing on American soil. The EO is cunningly covered under the auspices of Peace Time Martial Law at the discretion of one man.”

A.M. Costa Rica staffers arrived at the same conclusion about the media independently, and found that various blogs and political Web sites have been writing about the executive order extensively since Friday. In the five pages checked in a Google search not one publication that could be considered mainstream is mentioned. That includes The Washington Post or The New York Times. That means there is no well-researched, impartial treatment of the executive order. A check of the various postings show most have some political point of view.

The Drudge Report published the executive order in full and then published a commentary Sunday afternoon.

The mainstream media is supposed to be objective in its treatment of the news by giving relevant sides of an issue. Newspapers are supposed to lay out both sides to advance public discussion.  Not so subjective blogs.

With the growth of easy access to publishing via the Web, the
possibility exists that the traditional media is being eclipsed by politically motivated sites.

If that is true, the world of journalism has come full circle because the initial U.S. newspapers were financed by politicians and carried a political banner. In fact, the U.S. revolution against England was advanced in part by the pamphlet writings of Thomas Paine, whose propagandistic pro-war works were published widely.

Some 40 years earlier Peter Zenger, operator of the New-York Weekly  Journal, set the tone with repeated attacks on the colonial governor. The libel trial of Zenger is considered a landmark in U.S. press freedom. Less known is that Zenger, a German immigrant, was not fluent in English and many of the offending newspaper's articles were penned by local politicians.

The tradition of the party press was highlighted at the end of the 18th century in the political battle over the Alien and Sedition acts passed by the Federalists in fear of fallout from the French Revolution. Many opposition editors and even a congressman were jailed under the sedition provisions, which were interpreted to mean criticism of President John Adams or his administration. Newspapers generally served as platforms for political diatribes. Thomas Jefferson, the next president, issued pardons.

The tradition of journalistic political partisanship continued to the Civil War when the fledgling Associate Press news service realized that an impartial approach to the news would allow it to get more clients. Eventually this point of view won out, and newspaper opinions were supposed to be restricted to the editorial page.

Still there were some major exceptions, mainly to win circulation. William Randolph Hearst promoted the war with 1898 Cuba and was the man for whom the term yellow journalism was coined. In Chicago, Colonel Robert R. McCormick gained fame for his journalistic crusades and his anti-Communist coverage.

There is great discussion in the journalism field about the meaning of objectivity. Much can be said and slanted in a few headline works. Most academics say that objectivity is impossible and that the goal should be fairness. The point of view of owners and editors influences coverage.

But fairness is not the goal of many Internet sites and even some mainstream television stations. Many push a political point of view, and in that way, society has returned to the era of the party press. The good news is that alternate views are easily available with a simple click.

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Yemeni gunmen murder
U.S. teacher of English

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A Yemeni militant group affiliated with al-Qaida says it has shot and killed an American teacher in southern Yemen for preaching Christianity.

Militants riding a motorcycle shot the man in his car in the southern city of Taiz on Sunday. Yemeni officials say the American had been working at a European-run language institute. Authorities launched an investigation to find the perpetrators of the attack.

A U.S. State Department official confirmed the killing of the U.S. citizen in a statement, condemning it as a heinous crime and urging Yemen to bring those responsible to justice.

Al-Qaida linked group Ansar al-Sharia sent a text message to Yemen-based journalists saying it killed the American because he was a Christian missionary. Islamist militants often accuse Western aid and development groups of proselytizing.

A Swiss woman working as a language teacher in Yemen's western port of Hodeida was abducted last week. The identity of the kidnappers remains unclear.

Al-Qaida's Yemeni affiliate is active in Yemen's center and south, where its fighters seized several towns in Abyan province last year. 

A local official told foreign news agencies that missiles fired from the sea struck al-Qaida positions north of Abyan's provincial capital, Zinjibar, beginning Saturday. The official said at least 14 militants were killed. It was not clear if Yemeni or U.S. warships fired the missiles.

Witnesses said Yemeni government warplanes also attacked the al-Qaida-held town of Jaar on Sunday, prompting residents to flee their homes. There were no immediate reports of civilian casualties.

Yemen has been in chaos since last year when anti-government protests forced longtime autocratic ruler Ali Abdullah Saleh to agree to resign as president.

Court in Brazil bars
Chevron execs from leaving

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A Brazilian court has barred 17 executives from U.S. oil giant Chevron and its drilling contractor Transocean from leaving Brazil while it considers criminal charges against them in connection with an oil spill late last year.

George Buck, chief operating officer for Chevron's Brazilian division, was among those targeted in the order Saturday. Prosecutors say charges are expected to be filed Tuesday or Wednesday.

A Chevron spokesman says the company has not received a formal notification of the order. Chevron is also facing an $11 billion civil lawsuit from the 3,000-barrel spill in November in the Frade Field, off the coast of Rio de Janeiro.

Thursday, Chevron reported a minor spill in the same area, which caused the the oil company to stop production there.

Chevron said it would conduct a comprehensive technical study and prepare a complementary study to better understand the geological features of the area.

Archbishop of Canterbury
steps down from his post

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The Archbishop of Canterbury, the spiritual leader of the Anglican Communion and the Church of England, announced Friday he is stepping down at the end of this year.

Archbishop Rowan Williams said on his Web site, he will begin a new position as master of Magdalene College in Cambridge, beginning in January.

He has served as the 104th archbishop of Canterbury for a decade. Williams says leaving his post was not an easy decision, but he looks forward with the same support and inspiration to continue serving the church's mission and being witness to his faith.

The Crown Nominations Commission will be responsible for helping in the selection of Williams' successor.

Chávez returns from Cuba,
says he's happy to be home

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has returned home from Cuba where he underwent cancer surgery.

Chávez's plane arrived Friday at Caracas' international airport. Earlier in the day he announced in a Twitter message that he was departing from Havana's international airport. He wrote, "Heading to the Motherland! Thank God!"

Chávez had a tumor removed from his pelvic region in late February. He also flew to Cuba last year when he had a growth removed from the same area. He underwent chemotherapy last year in Cuba and Venezuela.

The 57-year-old Venezuelan leader has declined to identify the precise type of cancer he has, but said he will soon begin radiation therapy.

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U.N. rights chief sees
progress in Guatemala

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Guatemala has made progress in the fight against impunity and human rights abuses, but the country must tackle the tremendous challenges that remain to become a state based on democracy and the rule of law, says the United Nations human rights chief.

“I have seen many encouraging signs concerning the direction Guatemala is taking forward to address staggering impunity,” said Navi Pillay, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights. She spoke in Guatemala City at the end of a five-day visit to the country.

She commended the country for ratifying the Rome Statute, the treaty that created the International Criminal Court, saying the decision had sent a clear message that impunity for serious crimes – past, present or future – will not be tolerated.

“It is also heartening that in the past two years, for the first time, cases of past human rights violations have been brought to justice, such as the convictions for the Dos Erres massacre, and ongoing prosecutions on genocide charges in the Ixil region, including the indictment of a former de facto president,” she said.

Ms. Pillay deplored high levels of insecurity, crime and violence in Guatemala and condemned the brutality of organized criminal syndicates, but stressed that their heinous actions do not give the state the excuse to operate outside the rule of law.

“To fight insecurity, violence and crime, we must first look at their root causes, and then adopt a comprehensive strategy, encompassing prevention of violence, control and sanction, rehabilitation and protection of groups at risk, firmly based on the human rights of everyone,” she said.

On the rights of indigenous peoples, Ms. Pillay said Guatemala continues to face the challenge of overcoming racism and structural discrimination.

“Everywhere I went, I was made aware of increased divisions, and I see possibilities for dialogue and rapprochement growing fainter and fainter as time goes by. Although indigenous peoples constitute the majority of the population, they continue to be subject to exclusion and denial of their human rights,” she said.

Minors involved in crimes

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A 16 year old died during a dispute early Sunday outside a dance in Batán, and the principal suspect is another 16 year old.

Judicial police identified the dead youth by the last name of  Valverde. He suffered two stab wounds. Agents detained the suspect about 10 hours later at 10:30 a.m.

In Ipís de Goicoechea Fuerza Pública officers detained two brothers, 10 and 13, with what they said was a stash of 100 crack rocks and marijuana.

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