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(506) 2223-1327                       Published Wednesday, March 21, 2012, in Vol. 12, No. 58                            Email us
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Plans for new Museo de Jade to be outlined Thursday
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Government officials are moving ahead with plans to build a new Museo de Jade, a project which has been stalled for years.

President Laura Chinchilla is expected to join with the executive president of the national insurance company Thursday to outline detailed plans for the project. The museum is operated by the Instituto Nacional de Seguros, and now the facility is housed in the first floor of the insurance company's tower on Avenida 7 north of Parque España.

The proposed new structure is part of a corridor of museums that the government is planning to create. The proposed site is west of Plaza de la Democracia. The Museo Nacional is on the east side. Since at least 2009 a sign has marked the location, a former parking lot that was closed down then in anticipation of construction. The idea of a new museum there dates from at least 2008.

The major obstacle to building the $7 to $8 million proposed museum has been finances, and a similar gathering to announce plans was canceled two months ago while lawmakers continued to wrestle with Ms. Chinchilla's new tax plan. Now that plan has been approved in initial debate, and officials are awaiting approval from the Sala IV constitutional court.

In the past, the insurance institute said it would bear all the costs, but the money had been slow in coming, although the site has been purchased.

The purpose of the meeting Thursday, according to a press release from the former insurance monopoly is to reveal the conceptualization of the museum. It also promised to construct a building to display all of the museum's collection. Now only some 1,355 of the 5,256 pieces held by the museum are on display, said officials when the building project was first announced in 2009.

Despite its name, the museum contains much more than jade pieces from pre-Columbian cultures. The displays contain a full treatment of former and present native cultures of Costa Rica. The insurance institute paid for the shipment of about 1,000 pieces of the Minor Keith collection to be returned to Costa Rica from the Brooklyn, New York, Museum, Keith shipped some 16,000 pieces to the United States in the 19th century.

He was president of the United Fruit Co.

The current site is better than the 11th floor location that housed the museum earlier. Access for visitors always was a problem, and the museum only had been open during normal business hours. In 2004 a plan was floated to build an external elevator on the face of the Instituto Nacional de Seguros building so visitors could get to the museum at times when the entire building was not open. But then-president Abel Pacheco quickly shot down that plan for financial reasons.
jade musum
A.M. Costa Rica file photo
This is the museum's present location

Although the museum is less known than the national museum or the Museos del Banco Central under the Plaza de la Cultura, it received increased visibility with a series of evening tours that brought participants to galleries as well as the museum.

The museum began in 1977 when insurance officials decided to start a collection to counter the pot-hunting tradition that was putting many artifacts into private hands. Three years later, the collection received the name it bears now.

Both the national museum and one of the Banco Central museums, the Museo del Oro Precolombino, have extensive holdings of pre-Columbian artifacts. Presumably, the conceptualization mentioned in the new release will define how the new Museo de Jade will differ from the others.

In Costa Rica, the word jade refers to objects made from stone and usually hung on the chest as ornaments and talismans. The authentic jade comes from a major source in the Río Motagua in Guatemala.

However, other stones with different color tones made from local materials sometimes have the same cultural and symbolic importance as pure jade, according to experts at the national museum quoted in previous articles.

The reason for this is that the word jade is associated with the color green. The manufacture of jade objects reached its peak between 300 and 800 A.D. Indian cultures manufactured collars, headdresses, earrings and other body adornments.

The Aztecs in México offered the invading Spanish jade, which they considered more valuable than gold, although both materials held a high place in religious life.

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Sweeping raids net suspects
in cartel-like organization

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Judicial agents, prosecutors and judges raided 16 locations in the Central Valley and detained 11 persons Tuesday in what they said was a takedown of a gang involved in drug trafficking, money laundering and murder.

Among the victims of the gang, according to the Poder Judicial were four individuals who were gunned down from June through October.

The raids took place in Desamparados, Pavas, Cristo Rey, San Pedro de Montes de Oca and Santa Cruz de Guanacaste and involved 250 law officers, 16 prosecutors and 15 judges. The operation was under the direction of Walter Espinoza, the organized crime prosecutor.

The Poder Judicial quoted Espinoza as saying that the gang extorted money from other groups that sold drugs and threatened competitors. The gang also brought cash in from Guatemala and used it to make real estate purchases, said the report. The investigation has been going on for 18 months, the Poder Judicial said.

During the raids, police and agents confiscated 19 kilos of cocaine, $125,000 in cash and many weapons, said the Poder Judicial.

The principal suspect was identified as Marco Zamora Solórzano. Espinoza attributed four killings to the gang, known as Los Perros or dogs. June 20 a minor died in Pavas while a man was injured. Aug. 12 two Mexicans were killed in Heredia. Oct. 22 the death of a Colombian on Paso de la Vaca in San José, said the report.
Espinoza said that the gang was set up in the form of a Mexican cartel with respect for leadership and heavy use of violence.

Agents detained 10 persons during the morning raids. In the afternoon the Poder Judicial said that the sister of Zamora had been detained. She was described as the accountant for the group.

Small hotel operators hold
exhibition at Ramada

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Although it has not been well publicized, the network of small hotels in Costa Rica opened a two-day exhibition at the Hotel Ramada Plaza Herradura Tuesday.

The event is open to the public today from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., said the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo. The organizer is the Red Nacional de Pequeños Hoteles. Earlier Tuesday there were trraining sessions in sustainable tourism and marketing.

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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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, March 21, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 58
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Constitutional court finds no flaws in stiff rules against tobacco
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Sala IV constitutional court decided that there are no legal flaws in a new law to control the use of tobacco. The decision opens the way for President Laura Chinchilla to sign the measure.

The anti-tobacco law already received a second and final vote in the legislature.

However, that may not be the last word. Philip Morris, the tobacco firm, has dragged the country of Uruguay into international arbitration over a similar law. The tobacco firm said that the law is damaging its profits and that a rule to cover up part of its logo with grim graphics deprives it of its property.

Uruguay has the support of many countries and also of New York Michael Bloomberg.

The outcome of the arbitration case will have an effect on Costa Rica as well as any other country that has subscribed to the World Health Organizations anti-tobacco treaty.

The decision by the Sala IV was anticipated because the same body gave approval to the anti-tobacco treaty in 2008. The law closely follows that document and prohibits smoking in public places and places of public accommodation, like restaurants.

The proposed law, as reported in the past, also prohibits smoking in bars, offices, shopping centers, public and private
schools, automatic tellers, workplaces and at bus and taxi stops.
The proposed law also prohibits advertising related to tobacco products. And cigarette packages have to have 50 percent of the outside space dedicated to health messages.

Also prohibited is the Costa Rican tradition of selling cigarettes one at a time. This is common at vendor stands in urban areas. When the measure goes into effect, the minimum purchase will be 10 cigarettes.

The measure also provides for health services to help those addicted to tobacco.

The measure also imposes a special tobacco tax, which is 20 colons for each cigarette, cigar or other type of tobacco. Some 60 percent of the tax will go to the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social to support anti-tobacco programs and cancer treatments. Some 20 percent will go to the Ministerio de Salud to support its obligations under the law. And 15 percent is earmarked for the Instituto sobre Alcoholismo y Farmacodependencia. The Instituto Costarricense del Deportes y la Recreación gets 5 percent.

The average citizen or resident who is caught smoking in a prohibited place will face a fine as will operators of businesses who allow smoking.

However, the law does not go into effect immediately. The government has six months after the president signs the bill to draw up regulations. Then businesses and tobacco distributors have a year to conform.

U.N. agency and weather institute plan to keep eye on warming
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A United Nations agency is joining with the national weather institute to assess the impact of climate change in Costa Rica.

The organizations, the U.N. Programme for Development and

the Instituto Meteorológico Nacional, plan to release the results of what they call technical research today at a press conference.

The weather institute said on its Web site that with the help of the U.N. agency scientists have installed a network of automatic weather stations designed to improve the observation of the effects of climate change.

The announcement of the session said that the two agencies have joined to strengthen the national capacity to evaluate the vulnerability and adaptations of water systems to climate change. They said they seek to generate scientific information that will allow the country to face climate change and its effects, such as flooding, drought, landslides and other problems associated with a higher temperature.

Environmentalists in the United States have said that climate change is now widely recognized as the major environmental problem facing the globe. However, that view is controversial, and some experts ague that the climate is always changing.

The two agencies are expected to specify what regions of the country will receive more rain as a result of higher temperatures and what areas are most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. The announcement also questioned what urgent steps can be taken to adapt to climate change.

Climate change has been linked to carbon dioxide, a vital component of the atmosphere. However, the major component of what is called greenhouses gases is water vapor.

The Costa Rican central government has pledged to make the country what is called carbon neutral by 2021, although many in government agree that this goal is not likely to be reached or even fully defined.

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Caja union women
protests naming

For the fourth week, the women of a Caja Costariccense union protest the naming of a board member who was not the one they wanted. Organizers said the group will go every Tuesday to Casa Presidencial until they prevail. They are there from 9 a.m. to noon.
Caja women protest
A.M. Costa Ricas/Shahrazad Encinias Vela

Contract signed for widening of the Interamericana norte
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The government signed an agreement with Consorcio FCC Tuesday for widening of the Interamericana Norte. The  consortium represents 11 different construction firms. The Banco Interamericano de Desarrollo provided a $300 million loan from which the central government will take the money to pay for the work.

The 50.6-kilometer stretch is between Cañas and Liberia. Officials are touting the benefits of the four-lane project for
the economy and for tourism. The distance is about 32 miles.

The scope of the project had been announced earlier when bids were sought. The job includes 18 new bridges and 16 rebuilt bridges as well as overpasses, as well as making the two-lane highway four lanes.

The project is considered part of the Corredor Mesoamericano that links México with Panamá.

Work is expected to start within a week.

New salary accord ends threat of general strike for country
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Negotiators for the central government and employee unions finally reached another accord at 2 a.m. Tuesday.

The accord protects those workers who have extra salary incentives and provides for raises during the second half of the year. The second-half raises would be paid by October, according to the agreement.

Leaders of all the unions subscribed to the accord, according to the Asociación Nacional de Empleados Públicos y Privados even though a teachers union said it was breaking off negotiations in advance of an April strike.
The dispute stemmed from the unilateral decree by President Laura Chinchilla that each public employee would receive a 5,000-colon raise, about $10. That was regardless of salary or the extras. She did this when negotiations broke down.

The second half raise will be based, in part, on the percentage of a salary hike that employees did not get in the first six months, and it will not be retroactive until Jan. 1, said the union group.

Neither the government nor the unions wanted a strike because the public relations fallout would be strongly negative. Plus damage would be done to the economy. Dock workers in Moín export most of the country's agricultural products.

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Major quake hits México,
but there is little damage

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A strong 7.4-magnitude earthquake hit near Acapulco on Mexico's Pacific coast Tuesday, but President Felipe Calderón says there are no reports of major damage. 

The U.S. Geological Survey said the epicenter of Tuesday's quake was in Guerrero state in southwestern Mexico.

The earthquake caused buildings to sway in Mexico City and sent frightened residents into the streets of the capital.  But Mexico City Mayor Marcelo Ebrard said no serious damage was visible during a helicopter survey.

A top official at a skyscraper in Mexico City, Felipe Flores, said the structure was built to withstand earthquakes and came through Tuesday's quake very well.  The building, called the Torre Mayor, is the tallest structure in Mexico and one of the tallest in Latin America.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said the inland earthquake would not generate a destructive widespread tsunami, but that local tsunami effects are possible.

In Washington, the White House said U.S. President Barack Obama's 13-year-old daughter, Malia, was safe after the earthquake hit.  She is vacationing in southwestern Mexico with friends.

The U.S. Geological Survey earlier estimated the quake's magnitude at 7.6 before downgrading it to 7.4.

Perú bars British warship
in support of Argentina

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Perú has canceled a scheduled visit by a British naval warship to show its support for Argentina in its long-standing dispute with Britain over control of the Falkland Islands.

The frigate Montrose was scheduled to arrive Thursday at Peru's naval port of Callao for a friendly visit.  But Peruvian Foreign Minister Rafael Roncagliolo said Monday the visit was scrapped as part of an agreement among the 12-member Union of South American Nations supporting Argentina.

British officials say the Peruvian government could have raised its concerns with Foreign Office Minister Jeremy Browne during his visit to Lima last week.

Tensions between Buenos Aires and London have been building ahead of next month's 30th anniversary of their brief war over the Falkland Islands, located about 400 kilometers (248 miles) off the Argentine coast.  Argentina had seized control of the islands before being routed by British forces during a 74-day conflict.  Argentina continues to claim ownership over the archipelago, which it calls the Malvinas.  

Argentina has become increasingly angry about British offshore oil exploration near the islands, as well as the deployment to the Falklands of Queen Elizabeth's grandson Prince William, who is helicopter pilot with the Royal Air Force.  

Authorities in southern Argentina barred two British-linked cruise ships from entering the port of Ushuaia last month after they reportedly stopped in the Falkland Islands.

Freedom House condemns
dissident detentions in Cuba

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Freedom House has condemned the arrests over the weekend of an estimated 80 Cuban dissidents, including the leader of the Ladies in White, Berta Soler, and called on the Cuban government to release those who remain in custody and to cease arbitrary detentions of nonviolent civic groups.

The arrests were carried out by state security in Havana and in the provinces of Villa Clara and Santiago de Cuba as part of a coordinated effort to quell dissent in the lead-up to Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to the island on March 26, said the organization. While most detainees have been released, others remain in custody, including former political prisoner Angel Moya.

“These arbitrary arrests reflect a hackneyed pattern on the part of the Cuban government to silence civil society during critical moments in which they fear mass discontent and public mobilization,” said Viviana Giacaman, director for Latin America programs at Freedom House. “The Cuban government fears pro-democracy demonstrations while the Pope is on the island and these detentions are sending a clear message to Cuban civil society to remain quiet.”

Approximately 74 representatives of the Ladies in White were detained, including 36 who were arrested on Sunday as they gathered to celebrate the 9th anniversary of the Black Spring. During the infamous crackdown in 2003, 75 peaceful dissidents were arrested and summarily sentenced for up to 28 years in prison.  While they were detained, the Ladies in White were warned by the authorities to suspend their weekly Sunday marches in front of Santa Rita church, where they have been allowed to march since 2010.

The Ladies in White have sent the Pope videos documenting the government’s violent attacks and coordinated acts of repudiation, and have repeatedly requested a meeting with him during his visit to Cuba. The Pope has yet to accept this request.

“The Catholic Church is in a unique position to foster a meaningful dialogue among different sectors of society on basic questions of respect for human rights and dignity of Cubans,” continued Ms. Giacaman. “We urge the Pope to take advantage of this opportunity and to meet with dissidents during his visit.”

Arbitrary detentions are commonplace in Cuba. In 2011, 4,132 detentions were documented and 1,234 more were documented between January and February of 2012, freedom House said.

Freedom House consistently places Cuba among the world’s most repressive societies.  Cuba is ranked Not Free in Freedom in the World 2012, Freedom House's survey of political rights and civil liberties, and Not Free in Freedom of the Press 2011. The island nation also received the third-lowest ranking in Freedom on the Net, a study of internet freedom in 37 countries released in 2011.

Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.

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President proposed five laws
to support value-added tax

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The value-added tax will survive a second vote, a confident President Laura Chinchilla said Tuesday.  She said she was promoting for five new laws that will complement the tax reform.

The reform passed the first debate last week but is held up because the Sala IV constitutional court has been asked by opposition lawmakers to consider the seedy way it was passed.

The five proposed laws will strengthen the fiscal reform, said the president during a press conference Tuesday morning at the Casa Presidencial.

The five initiatives are about strengthening tax management, fiscal transparency, rationalize public spending, and create a policy that will enable debt management. The final initiative is to allow international information exchange among different countries to prevent tax fraud.

The country wants more of its legislators, said the president at the same time in reference to the Sala IV appeal. She said she was upset that lawmakers are leaving the final verdict to judges instead of taking the responsibility themselves.

Fire victims getting help

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The government is seeking to provide help to 93 members of low-income families who were routed by a fire Monday. The fire victims are residents of Barva de Heredia.

The Instituto Mixto de Ayuda Social said it was working with local emergency groups to provide basic necessities to the people as well as trying to find them housing.

The blaze destroyed a number of homes and left the fire victims with nothing.

Port agency gets raise

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The nation's regulating agency has approved rate increases that will bring in 17 percent more to the government agency that runs the ports of Limón and Moín.

The Autoridad Reguladora de Servicios Públicos said that it based its decision on a study of the movement of containers at other ports. The agency is the Administración Portuaria y de Desarrollo Económico de la Vertiente Atlántica. The rate also is designed to provide a profit margin for the agency for investment in machinery.

Another blaze at a park

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Another fire broke out Tuesday in a national park. This one is in the Parque Nacional Santa Rosa in Guanacaste. Fire brigades from the Sistema Nacional de Áreas de Conservación were being dispatched to the scene.

Officials said that there have been 45 blazes in protected areas since Jan. 1 and the beginning of the dry season. More than 1,200 hectares (nearly 3,000 acres) have been burned, they said.

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