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A.M. Costa Rica

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These stories were published Monday, March 21, 2005, in Vol. 5, No. 56
Jo Stuart
About us

A.M. Costa Rica photos by Saray Ramírz Vindas

Carlos Fallas at left receives donations for palms from parishioners while Jesus of Nazareth arrives on a horse above.

Palm Sunday in Desamparados draws 2,000

Children dressed in biblical clothing and holding palm cuttings attend Mass at Nuestra Señora de los Desamparados church.
More than 2,000 persons greeted an image of Jesus Christ Sunday at Nuestra Señora de los Desamparados church in one of many similar ceremonies of devotion around the country.

Palm Sunday marks the beginning of Holy Week or Semana Santa. In Christian tradition the day commemorates the triumphant arrival of Christ in Jerusalem only to face cruicifixion five days later. 

Participants greeted the arrival of the statue outside the church in the same way tradition says Jews in Jerusalem greeted Christ — by waving palm cuttings.

— Saray Ramírez Vindas

Deputy stages sit-in on monument to protest church closings
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Carlos Avendaño decided to take matters into his own hands Friday. He was upset because the Ministerio de Salud had closed a number of evangelical churches for presumed violations.

So Avendaño, a national deputy, ascended the Monumental Nacional in Parque Nacional about 4 p.m. and refused to come down until an accord was reached some five hours later.

Avendaño represents a political party that believes in a moral renewal for the country. The health ministry agreed not to close any more churches and to re-examine those that have been closed. José Manuel Echandi, the defensor 

de los habitantes, mediated the negotiations between the deputy and a representative of the health ministry.

Avendaño said the health ministry tactics were religious persecution.

The Monumento Nacional depicts 19th century filibuster William Walker being driven from Central America by five women, personifications of the countries here. The monument is revered by Costa Ricans.

Avendaño was tweaked Sunday by a cartoon in La Nación, the Spanish daily, which showed a procession of persons with signs promoting political views trying to ascend the monument. 

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Our readers respond

More positive reporting
sought on Costa Rica 

Dear A.M. Costa Rica: 

I also do share Juan Carlos' belief  that you should try to write less of the negative things that are happening in Costa Rica, and instead be a little more positive in your reporting. 

An example of some positive things about Costa Rica can be the very low cost of living.  I visited last month and I was amazed that I only spent about $2,000 and this is with transportation for three included.  Or how pleasant people are when you are being served or attended to, or how good health care is: cheap. 

While on vacation I had to take an emergency trip to the ER in El Hospital De Alajuela, the care was actually better, faster, and cheaper than in the U.S. 

All I am trying to say is that as much bad there is in Costa Rica, or for that matter in the world, there is also alot of good, and it will not hurt you to report some of it; this might help some of the advertisers you have on this web site. 

Mario Rodriguez 
Orlando Florida
He discounts claim
of negative reporting

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

When I started to read your opinion (of Juan Carlos) I stopped for a second when you wrote Gringo because at that point I knew you lived in CR. and I was right. 

You live there so you see what this paper writes everyday so why does it bother you to read the truth? What's wrong with the truth? just like upstate New York prints. 

I have written to the editor myself, and he tells it like it is. Go to other countries and see if what you wrote to the A.M. Costa Rica newspaper would allow your letter put in their paper. 

This should show you this paper is fair and did not hide your letter to them. So Zancudo just stop reading if you don't like this paper. It's like changing the channel on your TV. 
                                                                                                       Keep up the good work A.M. Costa Rica. 

Ed. Fulmer 
Cape Coral, Fla.
Former resident says
Costa Rica declining

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

More positive news in A.M. Costa Rica? Well if Mr. Juan Carlos D'Imperio of Zancudo wants more positive new stories published about his country, then he should move to another country, cause it is a FACT that Costa Rica's economy is in decline and stealing and killing is on an upward trend. 

Would it not be fair to the un-suspecting public and tourist to have this valuable information before subjecting themselves to a horrible vacation. Costa Rica, beautiful country, but needs culture improvements.

Marvin Powell 
Bocas del Toro, Panama 
former Costa Rican resident 

Government monopolies
always playing catch-up

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

With a seeming sincerity, Dr. Roman wrote his praiseful letter of ICE’s phone service and INS’s low-cost insurance, but the complete picture about these two government monopolies is something else. 

ICE has a big time problem: How to generate enough revenue to financially stay afloat in a relatively poor and small market with the shackles it wears. To begin with an excessive bureaucracy with union protected special privileges keeps salary costs high. 

The complicated bid process for network expansion and equipment acquisition is agonizingly slow. To keep the costly kickback game from suppliers from being detected — Alcatel’s "prizes" to officials to mention only one example — requires time as well. Political intervention — after all, it is a government institution, therefore not politics free —  sets other agendas, adding costs to ICE’s operations. 

In a world where technology shifts take place daily ICE is condemned to forever play the catch-up game, meaning ICE buys already obsolete equipment which translates into revenue not perceived. 

Because the country considers its people less than affluent, but having a social conscience, the local land line — copper wire — telephone service is cheap, so cheap that every time ICE puts in new line the revenue generated is less than the cost of maintenance. That is why so many would-be customers have yet to have the service they applied for years ago. ICE can’t afford to. 

Dr. Roman was lucky he is in an area where the lines were in and one was available. By the way, Dr. Roman is mistaken about the costs of calls within the country. Outside the caller’s area and the farther away, the faster the pulsations, meaning that a minute’s worth of pulsations from San Pedro to Tres Rios is not the same as from San Pedro to Golfito. It’s much less. 

In the pre-cell phone era ICE’s revenue mainstay was the international call and fax traffic. The Internet and other technologies slaughtered that fat cow. Fortunately for ICE, they had that wonderful revenue producer of the cell phone to turn to. ICE realized that by putting in everybody’s hand a cell phone, they would have a gushing river of revenue. Hong Kong and Seoul discovered the river years ago. Maybe that was why Millicom, the first cell provider in the country, was driven out. What’s even better is that cell phone networks can be built relatively quickly. No getting easements, no burying lines or putting up poles, just stick some towers in the ground, hook some equipment to them and soon you have paying customers. 

World business needs require high speed internet. Without it no country can attract investment. And ICE likes to boast that they are offering advanced internet service. Well, they do offer it, but it is embarrassingly below international standards. They are working on it, but there is no rush. What are their customers going to do, switch to another company? Switching to or from RACSA is pointless: ICE owns RACSA, which has the same drawbacks.

The Instituto Nacional de Seguros (INS), the government insurance company has similar shackles as ICE. Furthermore, INS attempts to do something no private insurance would dare to do: provide coverage for everything. The problem arises for the consumer when he or she tries to collect on damages suffered. There are several departments a claim form has to pass through before there is a settlement, if there is one. 

Each department has the job of looking for a reason not to pay the claim. You think I am exaggerating? Then ask the congressional investigating committee why it summoned the board of directors of INS to explain the company’s much-complained-about claim acceptance policy. 

On a final note —  One A.M. Costa Rica reader says the paper portrays Costa Rica as a "cesspool," suggesting a bash-Costa Rica reporting. I totally disagree. A.M. Costa Rica presents fairly and accurately both sides, the good and the bad, of the coin, as good journalism is expected to do.

Walter Fila 
Ciudad Colón
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Saray Ramírez Vindas...associate editor

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Spurs at 
6:30 p.m.

Hornets at
7:30 p.m.

Blazers at

A block behind the INS building in Barrio Amón

A shrimp and a citizen have needs to keep close watch
Camarón que se duerme se lo lleva la corriente

"The shrimp who sleeps gets carried off by the current." Of course I’m not even sure if shrimp actually can fall asleep, but the point our dicho today wants to make is that one shouldn’t allow himself or herself to get too comfortable even in his own special environment.

The applications of this dicho are many and fairly obvious. For example, when we’re closing a business deal, we must be aware of all the ups and downs and ins and outs, which usually means reading every word of the fine print before we sign anything. 

But there are some less obvious situations where it’s better to be aware than to be carried along by the current. In San José, for example, when you’re out for an evening’s stroll it’s a good idea to keep an eye peeled for what’s going on around you. 

What are the other "strollers" on the street up to? Is someone following you, or does someone — who may have larceny on the mind — appear to be studying you a bit too carefully? Of course, in a strange neighborhood one should always be aware of one’s surroundings, especially at night. 

Clearly, the most aware of shrimp can be taken by the current, but why should we make it any easier for a wave of crime to carry us away?

Another not-quite-so-obvious application of this dicho is political in nature. It has to do with the fact that when we live in a democracy we must still always be vigilant, for all the wonderful blessings that our freedom confers, which we may be taking a bit too much for granted, can so easily be lost. 

way we say it

By Daniel Soto

We must therefore not allow ourselves to be lulled into complacency by materialism and apathy lest all our rights and privileges be swept away by a sudden flood of extremism and its attendant undercurrent of political shenanigans. 

These days being vigilant often means that we have to do some digging in order to uncover the truth of what our governments are really up to. A case in point might be the present controversy in the United States over Social Security. One may have to look just a little further than one’s television screen in order to find out what’s really going on here. 

Today’s dicho also fits in nicely with another: Al mejor mono se le cae el banano. "Even the best monkey may lose his banana." In other words, one simply cannot be too careful. There’s always someone out there who is one banana short of a fruit salad.

Tax havens for Canadians spreading throughout nations of the Caribbean 
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The tradition of using Cayman Island bank accounts to avoid taxes has spread throughout the Caribbean and into Costa Rica over the last two decades, according to a report released by Statistics Canada.

The report, entitled "Tax Havens, An Evolving Taxation Issue," notes a rising trend of money outflow toward foreign nations, where its interest is non-taxable by the Canadian government. The increase of international capital flows has led to the birth of several new offshore financial centers. 

The report includes rankings of countries based on the amount of money that has been invested by Canadian citizens. Costa Rica ranked 74th on the list with $94 million Canadian.

Canada, unlike the United States and Costa Rica, does not have a global tax system for all citizens. Canadian citizens, therefore, are able to collect foreign income without having to pay taxes on it if they are residents elsewhere. U.S. citizens, however, do use foreign investment techniques that allow them to evade U.S. taxes.

Tax avoidance investments have been on the rise in recent years. There are several companies in Costa Rica that help Canadian and U.S. citizens invest their money. 

The group that compiled the data, Statistics Canada, is affiliated with the Canadian government and conducts statistical tests and samples including average income reports and the national census. 

The entire report is available HERE!

Three held to face charge of stealing luggage from tourists in Grecia
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Three persons were arrested in Alajuela Saturday. They are believed to be part of a ring of thieves who steal luggage from tourists. 

According to a statement released by the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública, officials chased down the suspects after witnesses claimed that they saw them steal luggage from a group of Dutch tourists in Grecia.

Fuerza Pública officials had to chase the suspects from Grecia to Coyol de Alajuela by car. 

When officers caught up to the suspects, officials said they found them throwing luggage from the vehicle windows. Police interpreted this as an effort to get rid of evidence.

The three suspects were identified by their last names, Escobar Altamirano, a man; and two women, Ms. Villarrevia Castro and Ms. Salas Pérez. 

Ex-president Calderón to appeal new order for his pretrial detention
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Rafael Calderón Fournier will appeal a new order of preventative detention that would keep him in prison at least until June 18.

The Juzgado Penal del II Circuito mandated three more months in jail for the former president Friday. Prosecutors had asked for six months. He has been jailed in La Reforma since Sept. 22.

Calderón has three working days to appeal the order, and his legal team said they would.

The former president faces conspiracy, corruption and a related charge stemming from the scandal iinvolving the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social and Corporation Fischel for some $33 million in equipment purchased by the government health organization.

Some $9 million was paid as a commission on the deal.

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Nearly 900 denied entry to Costa Rica in two days
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Immigration officials say they have turned away nearly 900 persons at two northern entry points into the country within two days.

The majority of those rejected were Nicaraguans.

The Dirección General de Migración reported Sunday that 3,301 persons had entered the country since Friday at the Peñas Blancas border station and 5,913 left. At Los Chiles 65 persons had entered, and 166 had left.

Many persons are on the move due to the Semana Santa holidays, and immigration officials said they beefed up the border crossings and opened more windows to accommodate the expected flow.

Some 783 persons had been refused entry Friday and Saturday at the Peñas Blancas entry, officials said. At 

Los Chiles 113 were turned away, they said.

Meanwhile, the Fuerza Pública said its men were on full alert for Holy Week, as was the Servicio Nacional de Guardacostas and the Servicio de Vigilancia Aérea. The boats are paying attention to places where many swimmers congregate, including Puntarenas, Esparza, Esterillos, Jacó and Punta Burica and Isla del Coco. 

Several launches are assigned to Manuel Antonio because of the water risks there and the great number of bathers, said officials.

Costa Rican rejection of Nicaraguans became an international incident last year when officials here refused to accept any identification except passports. Other paperwork had been used for years. 

Thousands of Nicaraguans had to obtain new, valid passports before they could return to their homes here.

Western clash with Islam is topic of talk by Puerto Viejo businessman
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A speech entitled "Two Great Rivers — The Clash Between Western and Islamic Civilizations" will be given Tuesday at Big Mike’s Place in Escazú.

The speech will be given by Barry Stevens, an expat 

currently living in Puerto Viejo. Stevens is the founder of the Bridge Foundation in Puerto Viejo, which helps poor families afford schooling for their children. 
The speech will begin at 7 p.m. and will end at 8:30 p.m. Stevens will then be available for a question and answer period. For more information contact Sam Butler at 289-6333.

Costa Rica's soccer fine lowered but doors to game still closed
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Fútbol’s international governing body lowered the amount of a fine against the Costa Rican national team over the weekend, but the team will still have to play without fans Saturday.

The governing body, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association originally slapped Costa Rica with a $34,000 fine and a closed stadium after fans threw 

objects at Mexican players during a World Cup qualifying match in February. 

The association lowered the fine to $17,000 after an appeal was filed, but the association did not change their ruling regarding the closed stadium. 

Costa Rica will play Panama Saturday in its second World Cup qualifying match. The team lost its first match to Mexico, 2-1.

Jo Stuart
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