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(506) 2223-1327                             POublished Monday, March 21, 2016, in Vol. 17, No. 56                         Email us
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Ann Bender, back in States, remains legally entangled
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Ann Bender may be back in the United States, but her legal problems are hardly resolved.

The most pressing issue now is some $7 million in precious and semi-precious stones that she and her husband, John, collected as investments while they were living on the Pacific coast. From the family’s point of view, the stones are inexplicably held up in the country’s customs agency. Prosecutors seized the stones from the Benders' five-story 8,000-square-foot glass-walled showplace home in their 5,000-acre private Refugio de Vida Silvestre Boracayán, La Florida de Barú de Pérez Zeledón. Investigators and prosecutors were responding to the death of John Bender.

Also a concern now is a prosecutor’s appeal of a third murder trial in which Mrs. Bender was acquitted. Prosecutors want a fourth trial, which is allowed under Costa Rica law.

Bender died Jan, 8, 2010, in a room where the only other person present was his wife. She testified she tried to stop his suicide. Prosecutors continue to claim she did it but did not define a motive.

Peter DeLisi, a childhood friend of John and also a Wall Street expert, is the family spokesman. He said Sunday that Mrs. Patton and he thought that the case of the precious and semi-precious stones had been resolved with a ruling by a judge that acquitted her of money laundering and smuggling allegations.

There is a paper trail that shows the stones were to be returned, and DeLisi said that the woman agreed to pay a $1.5 million tax even though she was not legally required to do so.

The couple accumulated the stones in 2008 and 2009 when prices were low due to the world economic downturn. He said that they were brought into the country with the full knowledge of customs inspectors after some 10 to 15 trips the Benders made to the United States.

Bender was a multi-millionaire who earned his money on Wall Street.
Mrs. Bender and her lawyers reached an agreement on the stones with Enilda Ramírez
González, the manager of the central office of
the Dirección General de Aduanas, the customs agency. But Ms. Ramírez left her job Jan. 15, and Guiselle Joya Ramírez took over the responsibilities.

DeLisi said that he and Mrs. Bender’s lawyers have been unable to obtain a good explanation from Ms. Joya. Neither has A.M. Costa Rica. She did not respond to repeated calls Friday. The Ministerio de Hacienda of which Aduanas is a part has declined to 
Ann Bender
Bender family photo
In happier times, Mrs. Bender enjoys scarlet macaws.

comment because a spokesperson said the case is still open.

DeLisi expressed concern that former employees of the Benders may have been meeting with Aduanas officials.

Much of the Benders’ holdings in Costa Rica, including the private reserve, were in a trust.

But DeLisi said that the precious and semiprecious stones were personal possessions of the Benders. They remain in the custody of the Banco de Costa Rica.

He did say that all the furnishing of  La Florida de Barú have been signed over to Mrs. Bender. They are in storage. Investigators, as is the local custom, cleaned out the family home during the investigation of Bender’s death. Mrs. Bender was a fan of Tiffany-style lamps with stained glass shades, but about half of the estimated 400 lamps were heavily damaged by the moving process, said DeLisi. He suggested there might be legal action over the damage.

The legal problems do not end there. A trustee of the family trust, a lawyer, Juan de Dios Álvarez Aguilar, has been removed from the post and faces a trial later in the year, DeLisi confirmed Sunday. Mrs. Bender accuses him of appropriating assets.

Mrs. Bender, after three trials, was able to leave Costa Rica last September. The woman spent time in preventative detention in Buen Pastor prison and also was hospitalized. Both she and her husband suffer from depression, and Bender had threatened suicide. DeLisi said she spent four months recovering her health in the States.

The case has been the subject of U.S. television coverage and a number of articles on the Internet.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, March 21, 2016, Vol. 17, No. 56
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Professional Directory
A.M. Costa Rica's professional directory is where business people who wish to reach the English-speaking community may invite responses. If you are interested in being represented here, please contact the editor.


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Semana Santa will see concerts today

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Despite being Semana Santa, this week will be more or less normal through the end of business Wednesday.

Most government workers are off, but retail outlets, banks, supermarkets and similar businesses plan normal hours Monday and Tuesday.

Thursday and Friday are legal holidays. Although some businesses will be open Thursday, only firms like pharmacies and some eating places will be in business Friday because it is the most solemn day of the year.

A typical schedule is that of Banco Nacional which will have normal hours until Wednesday at 5 p.m. when the usual evening services are being suspended.

Religious processions are traditional in Easter week. The archdiocese of San José had the Palm Sunday procession with apostles, a mule and a statue of Jesus Christ that ended with a morning Mass at the Catedral Metropolitana.

There is an organ concert at noon today in the La Soledad Church and a 5 p.m. concert by the Banda Municipal de San José in the downtown La Dolorosa Church.  At 7 p.m. the faithful will participate in stations of the cross from Avenida 8 to Avenida Central and then to the Teatro Nacional.

Tuesday there are concerts planned at the El Carmen Church at noon and 4 p.m. There is a concert at 5 p.m. at the La Dolorosa Church and a 6 p.m. concert by the Universidad de Costa Rica chorus at 6 p.m. in the La Soledad Church.

Wednesday is the 8:30 a.m. presentation of fruits and vegetables to priests by merchants at the markets in the capital. Eventually these food gifts go to the poor. This will be at Parque Central.

Then there are concerts at 12:30 p.m. in the La Soledad Church and one at 7 p.m. with the Banda Municipal de San José at Parque Central.

Local churches also have activities planned.

The Anglican Church of the Good Shepherd plans services at 9 a.m. today through Wednesday. Thursday there is a service at noon. Friday from noon to 3 p.m. there is the Procession of the Cross.

There is a bilingual service Easter Sunday at 9 a.m. The historic church is set back on Avenida 4 between calles 3 and 5 opposite the Colegio Superior de Señoritas.

Vitamin B3 seen as tool to delay aging

By the Centro Nacional de investigaciones Oncológicas news staff

An increase in antioxidant defenses of the body may delay aging and age-related diseases.

A research paper published in the journal Nature Communications offers a new view on the role of antioxidants in health and longevity

For the first time, scientists have enhanced the antioxidant capacity of cells, leading to a delay in aging and to an increase in longevity

Research points to the use of drugs related to vitamin B3 as a possible method to delay aging and associated diseases.

The gradual accumulation of cell damage plays a very important role in the origin of aging. There are many sources of cellular damage, however, which ones are really responsible for aging and which ones are inconsequential for aging is a question that still lacks an answer.

The Oxidative Hypothesis of Aging, also known as the Free Radicals Hypothesis, was put forward in 1956 by Denham Harman. Since then, the large majority of attempts to prove that oxidative damage is relevant for aging have failed, including multiple clinical trials in humans with antioxidant compounds. For this reason, although the accumulation of oxidative damage with aging is undisputed, most scientists believe that it is a minor, almost irrelevant, cause of aging.

However, this may change in light of the recently published observations. A group of scientists from the Centro Nacional de Investigaciones Oncológicas, the Spanish national cancer research center, have tried to increase the global antioxidant capacity of the cells, rather than just one or a few antioxidant enzymes. To achieve this global improvement in the total antioxidant capacity, researchers have focused on increasing the levels of NADPH, a relatively simple molecule that is of key importance in antioxidant reactions and that, however, had not been studied to date in relation to aging.

The researchers used a genetic approach to increase NADPH levels. In particular, they generated transgenic mice with an increase of one of the most important enzymes for the production of NADPH.

The results show increases in the natural antioxidant defenses of the organism protect it from oxidative damage, reducing aging-related processes, such as insulin resistance, and increasing longevity.

Furthermore, when researchers analyzed long-lived transgenic animals, they noted that their levels of oxidative damage were lower than in non-transgenic animals of the same age.

News from the Spanish-language press
Translated into English

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, March 21, 2016, Vol. 17, No. 56
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New rates for putting solar power on grid expected to ignite industry
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The nation’s regulatory agency has established rates for power hookups by private solar generators.

The rates range from 11.6 colons a kilowatt hour for the Empresa de Servicios Públicos de Heredia S.A. to 29.74 colons a kilowatt hour for the Cooperativa de Electrificación Rural Los Santos. The rate for the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad is 28.26 per kilowatt hour, and the rate for its subsidiary, the Compañía Nacional de Fuerza y Luz, is 17.99 colons per kilowatt hour. The rate for the Junta de Administración de Servicios Eléctricos de Cartago is 14.64 per kilowatt hour.

What this means is that when a homeowner or business that generates solar power puts a kilowatt of energy into the utility’s electrical web, the meter reading will be reduced that amount. Jon Harrington of Costa Rica Solar S.A. in Alajuela described the process as net metering.

So a customer of  the Compañía Nacional de Fuerza y Luz would be paying 17.99 colons for putting a kilowatt on the power grid instead of what Harrington estimated the same amount of power would cost if the electrical user just purchased it, 110.16 colons. The savings would be slightly higher if the solar energy was generated by a commercial user.

Harrington noted that the solar program was supposed to start in October, but that the negotiations over the rates caused a delay.

Other solar installers said that the market was frozen until the Autoridad Reguladora de Servicios Públicos set the rates. Paul Furlong of CR Solar said that installers were staying in business by selling hot water heaters.

The Autoridad announced the rates in a meeting Thursday that Harrington attended. He said the rates were the result of negotiation between the Asociación Costarricense de Energía Solar, the installer association, with the utilities. The decision is expected to generate a boon in the solar market.

“Now that solar installations have dropped in price, electricity from rooftop solar can cost less than power from the grid,” said Harrington, who noted that financing was available. “Installing solar with little or no money down opens the possibility up to many new consumers.”

He said the industry employed 1,600 persons before the freeze a year ago. There was a pilot project that connected a limited number of solar homes to the power grid, and installers and even the utility companies learned from that.

By expanding these reliable clean energy sources, even in drought years, Costa Rica will be able to boast running the grid on totally renewable energy, Harrington said.

Electrical utilities understandably are suspicious of solar and wind power hookups because they see a day that with improved technology many will not need the power grid.

Solís praises economy in pitch for new taxes during television speech
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President Luis Guillermo Solís took credit Sunday night for improvements in the national economy and said they were due to what the central government did last year.

The real purpose of his talk to the nation was to continue to push for action on the package of new taxes that lawmakers are considering.

Solís said the most important job ahead is to reduce the national deficit, which may grow to be 8.5 percent of the gross domestic product by 2018. He said that this would create a crisis for a new president and said the interest rate would increase and there would be cutbacks in social programs and even firings.

He said confronting this problem was a patriotic duty because

otherwise the next government would have to find solutions that are more costly and more painful.

He maintained that the improvements in the economy show that the country is on the correct path.

He said that the Banco Central reports increases in economic activity for seven months in a row and that inflation is lower than at any time in the last 40 years. 

Tax collections are up 10 percent, he said, noting that this was more than the increase in expenses.

The central government’s proposal for a value-added tax of 15 percent plus various other levies are stalled in the legislature. Some lawmakers said they want the central government to make significant cuts in expenses.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, March 21, 2016, Vol. 17, No. 56
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Blood-sucking chagas vector found to have surprising preference
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Eat your vegetables, the usual admonition for children, also can be applied to the blood-sucking bug that spreads the worrisome chagas disease.

The disease is widespread in Latin America, and the chagas parasite can end up in the heart.

Now scientists have discovered that the vector, the kissing bug, also known a the triatomine bug (Triatoma infestans), can also feed on tomatoes. When they do, they become stronger and can ingest more blood from humans and other mammals, according to a report from Lancaster University in the United Kingdom.

Chagas disease is found in Costa Rica. The bug that spreads it lives in cracks and other openings in adobe and other cracks in older homes as well as in the thatched roofs found in the tropics. This is one reason residents with thatched roofs put up fabric above living areas.

The triatomine bug is called the kissing bug because if its habit of feeding in blood extracted from a person’s face while they sleep.

Rod Dillon of Lancaster is credited with wondering if certain blood-sucking bugs would feed on tomatoes. The university said that he and Fernando Genta in Brazil focused on the kissing bug.

According to the university, one of the most important outcomes of the research was the reduction in the bugs’ mortality after ingestion of blood, which dropped from 40 percent to about 20 percent. Insects which consumed tomatoes showed greater weight gain after the blood supply, indicating an increase in the volume of blood ingested, it added.

“This means they are healthier as they have more energy, can live longer and bite more people,” Dillon was quoted as saying.

Genta said the discovery adds a new element to the kissing bugs life cycle and will impact knowledge of the transmission of chagas disease and the control strategies for this disease, said the university.

As many as 8 million people in Mexico, Central America, and
South America have chagas disease, most of whom do not
Lancaster University photo
Tiny insect enjoys a veggie treat.

know they are infected, said the U.S. Centers for disease Control. If untreated, infection is lifelong and can be life threatening, it added.

“The impact of chagas disease is not limited to the rural areas in Latin America in which vector borne transmission occurs,” said the Centers. “Large-scale population movements from rural to urban areas of Latin America and to other regions of the world have increased the geographic distribution and changed the epidemiology of chagas disease.”

After they bite and ingest blood, the bugs defecate on the person, said the Centers. The person can become infected if  T. cruzi parasites in the bug feces enter the body through mucous membranes or breaks in the skin, it said, adding that the unsuspecting, sleeping person may accidentally scratch or rub the feces into the bite wound, eyes, or mouth.

The Centers said that infection can cause cardiac complications, which can include an enlarged heart, heart failure, altered heart rate or rhythm and cardiac arrest. There also is a chance of intestinal problems.

There are two phases of chagas disease: the acute phase and the chronic phase, and both phases can be symptom free or life threatening, said the Centers. Infection usually is revealed with a blood test.

Vacation, travel and hospitality

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The Hidden Garden Art Gallery near the Liberia airport is a great place to find quality remembrances of Costa Rica to take home or to decorate your home or office in Costa Rica.  We also offer commissioned pieces so you can create your own unique masterpiece to cherish forever.  With more than 60 artists on exhibit and fine art in 15 rooms full of paintings, prints, sculptures, and diverse artistic expressions, we are easy to locate just 5 kms west of the Daniel Oduber International Airport. Visit our Web site at
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Gallery hours: Tuesdays-Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tel. 2667-0592 / 8386-6872; U.S. telephone 702-953-7073. International shipping available.

Click photo for another video

The Relocation/Retirement tour with the

 (as reported by the moving companies)
Visit many rental options to actually experience the price/amenity options available in more of the areas chosen by Expats for security, comfort, and quality of life.

Meet many Expats who are willing to share their experiences and how the tour has value long after the “lust” wears off.
See how to choose a Retirement tour video by past guest!

Ask the others what you get for your money, and then compare the quality of accommodations, quality, quantity and variety of food and drink to measure the best value for your money. 

Learn how others “talk the talk” and learn who really can “walk the walk”

Please visit my Web site  to contact my references.
George Lundquist, retirement, relocation columnist, Guide & Developer/Builder.


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Real estate rentals (paid category)

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Puriscal rental
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Property is a small house on a 16-acre farm in Desamparaditos, a small village located 5K NW of Santiago de Puriscal. 15 minutes to Puriscal, 1 hour to San José and the airport, all paved roads. House has 2 bedrooms and 1 bath, large  open kitchen/dining/living area and is fully furnished. Nice veranda with great views. Many fruit trees. Private but not isolated with all utilities. Rent $550/month long term, short term negotiable. Tenant pays for electricity and phone. Landlord pays water. Absolutely no pets. In Costa Rica call Liz Guegan at 7187-8577, in the USA call Pete Todd at 970-221-1457 or 720-951-7928.

Two bedrooms plus additional on loft, furnished condo with garage, half block walking distance to Costa Rica international Academy. Gated compound on Country Club grounds across Fairway Five. USD $850 plus utilities. Info: US 925 755-4645 or  Note:

 CR house telephone number 2654- 4145  We will be in our house in Flamingo,  March 11 thru April 30.

                                              Valley view

Boutique quality mountain homes for rent located on a small horse ranch on the slopes of the Barva Volcano, Heredia Province. The homes have stunning views of Costa Rica's Central Valley. Located at 7,300-foot altitude, our ranch borders the Braulio Carrillo National Park and the homes are hiking distance to the Barva Volcano crater lake. We offer various rental options for our 1- and 2-bedroom homes. Contact us at Ajsanch783@AOL.COM for more details.

Fully Furnished American style Apartments for Rent
2-bedroom, 2- bathroom, fully furnished American-style apartments with elevator in a secure building in Barrio Amó. Cable, Internet, water included. Shared laundry. Convenient to Parque Morazán,
hotels, restaurants, casinos, city government, national registry. $650 per month plus electricity. ½ month security deposit. No lease.  The larger apartments are $650 per month. They have larger bedrooms, living rooms and kitchens. It would be best for the prospective tenants to visit
Barrio Amon
the building to see the apartments.   For more information contact:  or call Hilda at 2221-7161.

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A.M. Costa Rica's  
Fifth news page
Salsa Lizano
San José, Costa Rica, Monday, March 21, 2016, Vol. 17, No. 56
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Axiom 890 pixels

Obama in the rian
Television Martí photo  
Obama was greeted with rain in Havana

Obama takes a walking tour
of old Havana as visit begins

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

U.S. President Barack Obama arrived in Cuba Sunday on a historic trip with the two nations moving to normalize their relations 55 years after they broke off ties.

Obama, the first sitting U.S. president to travel to Cuba in almost 90 years, will cap his visit with a direct address to the Cuban people outlining his vision for the future U.S.-Cuba relationship.

Obama stepped off Air Force One under cloudy skies and light rain at the airport in Havana just after 4:30 p.m. Sunday. Just before landing, Obama tweeted to the people of Cuba.

Obama brought with him a delegation that includes lawmakers from both U.S. political parties, corporate executives and prominent Cuban-Americans.

In remarks at the Melia Habana Hotel in Havana, Obama said, "Having a U.S. Embassy means we're more effectively able to advance our values, our interests and understand more effectively" the Cuban people's concerns. "This is a historic visit and a historic opportunity."

He and his family also toured Old Havana and visited the Havana Cathedral during a heavy downpour. They then had dinner at the San Cristobal restaurant.  Crowds rushed his motorcade to get a glimpse of Obama as it drove through the narrow streets.

The White House said the visit represents a new beginning in the relationship between the former Cold War enemies, expanding on the formal restoration of their diplomatic ties eight months ago.

“Diplomacy, including having the courage to turn a page on the failed policies of the past, is how we’ve begun a new chapter of engagement with the people of Cuba,” the president said during an appearance at the U.S. State Department several days before his departure.

​Today he holds talks with Cuban President Raúl Castro, then meets with Cuban entrepreneurs to discuss business ties between the U.S. and Cuba. A state dinner at the Revolutionary Palace is scheduled for Monday evening.

Obama's speech to the Cuban people, the highlight of his trip, will be an opportunity to look back on the two countries' complicated history, Ben Rhodes, deputy national security advisor, told reporters in an advance briefing.

The president's address Tuesday morning will "lay out his vision for how the United States and Cubans can work together, to how the Cuban people can pursue a better life,” Rhodes said.

Obama also plans to meet with members of Cuban civil society, including human rights activists, despite objections from the government in Havana.

The White House said the list of people invited to meet with the president during his visit was “non-negotiable.”

The Cuban government recently released some political prisoners and has taken small steps to open up Internet access. But a 2015 Human Rights Watch report found the Cuban government “continues to rely on arbitrary detention to harass and intimidate individuals who exercise their fundamental rights.”

The report found detentions have increased since the diplomatic thaw began, with arrests increasing from 2,900 to 7,188 in the first full year after the administration announced the resumption of relations. The thaw in relations could be an opportunity for the Cuban government to look at its internal laws on censorship, Internet freedom and freedom of assembly.

Continuing concerns about Cuba's human rights abuses have prompted some Republicans on Capitol Hill to strongly criticize the Obama trip.

​Speaking of Cuban President Castro and his brother, Cuba's revolutionary hero Fidel Castro, House Speaker Paul Ryan said Friday, “This is a regime that provides safe harbor to terrorists and fugitives."

Ryan said he doubts whether Obama will adequately bring up the need for reforms in Cuba. He also reminded reporters that despite Obama's attempts to announce new commercial deals, the U.S. trade embargo with Cuba is still intact and enforceable almost 60 years after it went into effect.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce echoed those concerns in a statement declaring any easing of economic sanctions “will further prop up a Communist regime in Cuba that has a long record of brutal human rights abuses.”

Only a majority vote by Congress can lift the U.S. embargo on trade with Cuba, and such a move is highly unlikely while Republicans hold majority control of both the House of Representatives and the Senate. However, there have been signs that some lawmakers may be receptive to the president’s policies.

Five Republican lawmakers are traveling to Cuba with Obama, and at least 15 Senate Republicans have publicly backed a loosening of restrictions on Cuban travel and trade.

Sen. Jeff Flake, a member of the presidential party in Cuba, said: “It’s always bothered me that, as Republicans, we talk about engagement and travel and commerce as something that will nudge countries toward democracy. But with Cuba we tend to say, ‘No, no, it won’t work there.' But it will work. It is working.”

Analysts say the presidential visit may help push the Cuban government to make changes.

“The Cuban people need to be in the driver’s seat for this thing to work, and the Cuban people are participating more freely in their economy,” said Marc Hanson of the Washington Office of Latin America, a human rights advocacy group. “They need to be able to participate in their politics as well.”

Ladies in White
Voice of America photo    
Cuban security officers grab a protester.

Cuban security roughs up
Damas de Blanco once again

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Cuban security officials arrested dozens of opposition demonstrators in Havana, cutting short the group's optimism that the imminent arrival of U.S. President Barack Obama would soften the regular police crackdown on their weekly demonstration.

More than 50 people were detained, including the leader of the Damas de Blanco, Berta Soler. Uniformed and plainclothed police patrolled the area around Gandhi Park from early Sunday morning, as the women arrived en masse.

For more than a decade, the Damas have advocated for an end to arbitrary detentions.

In recent years, the group, comprised of nearly 200 women across Cuba, has broadened to support human rights. They are outspoken opponents of the Castro government.

The Damas report the detentions and police violence happen frequently, at the Sunday protest and near their homes, and can last from hours to days.

"We're not masochists. No one likes to be hit," Ms. Soler said the night before her most recent detention. "But when we see that they hit us unjustly, that they arrest us arbitrarily, it makes us stronger."

Ms. Soler is scheduled to meet with U.S. officials this morning.

Obama, in a letter to the Damas ahead of his arrival in Havana Sunday afternoon, wrote "no one in Cuba or anywhere else should face harassment, arrest, or physical assault just because they are exercising a universal right to have their voices heard."

Starwood plans to fix up
three aging hotels in Havana

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Starwood Hotels and Resorts has reached a deal with Cuba to renovate three of its deteriorating state-owned hotels, becoming the first U.S. hotel company to operate in the Communist country since Fidel Castro seized the properties in his 1959 revolution.

Starwood's deal with Havana, reached the day before U.S. President Barack Obama arrived Sunday in Havana for a three-day visit, calls for the company to spend millions of dollars to bring the hotels up to its normal tourist-ready quality.

Meanwhile, Airbnb, the online U.S. lodging company, announced Sunday it will soon begin accepting reservations from around the world for visitors who want to stay in private Cuban homes linked to its network of rental properties.

As Castro assumed power in 1959, he seized the tourist industry, even for months making the Habana Hilton the new government headquarters.

Now, U.S. tourist traffic is increasing to Cuba. Even though U.S. tourist travel to the island nation, 145 kilometers off its southeastern shoreline is, officially still banned, Washington announced days ago that it will allow people-to-people educational trips, effectively an honor system that is unenforceable. Up to 110 daily U.S.-to-Cuba flights could start by the end of the year.

"The amount of travelers will skyrocket with direct flights," said Jorge Giannattasio, Starwood's chief of Latin America operations.

He said the three Cuban hotels, the Quinta Avenida, Santa Isabel and Inglaterra, will be opened by the end of 2016. 

It is not clear, however, whether Starwood will remain an American company.  It was on the verge of a $12.2 billion buyout deal with Marriott International, the U.S. hotel giant, but China's Anbang Insurance Group offered $13 billion on Friday. Marriott has until March 28 to make a counteroffer.

Hulk Hogan wins his case
against gossip site Gawker

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A jury in the U.S. southeastern state of Florida has ordered the gossip Web site Gawker to pay pro-wrestling star Hulk Hogan $115 million, ruling it should not have posted a secretly recorded video of Hogan having sex.

The jury announced its verdict Friday after a two-week civil trial.

Hogan, 62, argued that the 10-year-old video violated his privacy by showing him in an intimate situation with the wife of a friend. Hogan said the friend, a radio personality known as "Bubba the Love Sponge Clem," recorded the video without Hogan's knowledge or consent.

The video was posted on the Gawker Web site, where Hogan's lawyer said it was viewed around 7 million times.

The defense argued Gawker was exercising the right to free speech. Defense attorneys said Hogan, whose real name is Terry Bollea, has made himself a public figure and his sex life a public matter.

Despite that argument, the jury ruled in favor of Hogan's claim that the video violated his privacy and caused him harm.

The jury took only six hours to deliberate before reaching a verdict. Jurors were expected to return Monday to announce additional, punitive damages.

Gawker's legal team promised an appeal where the award could be reduced.

U.S. standards for invasion of privacy differ, with greater stringency given to private citizens than to so-called public figures, or people such as entertainers or politicians who have chosen to be recognizable.

Analysts said the victory for Hogan was a win for privacy laws, protecting Hogan's right to privacy despite his fame.

More GOP delegate votes
are at stake this Tuesday

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

U.S. Republican presidential candidates are headed to two more contentious state nominating contests on Tuesday, with the front-runner, billionaire real estate mogul Donald Trump, and his nearest challenger, Sen, Ted Cruz of Texas, likely to split the contests.

A massive number of votes have already been cast in early voting in the western state of Arizona, likely giving Trump an edge, since the Republican ballots were printed awhile ago and also list the names of candidates who have since dropped out of the party's presidential campaign.

Cruz is claiming that he is the only candidate who has a chance to overtake Trump, but with other names on the party primary election ballot, Trump could only win a plurality and still collect all 58 delegates to the Republican national convention, where the party will formally select its 2016 nominee.

Meanwhile, political surveys show Cruz, a conservative firebrand in the halls of Congress, likely to win party caucuses in Utah, another Western state. But if he does, his margin over Trump will prove crucial, with all 40 convention delegates going to the winner, if he gets more than 50 percent of the vote, while the convention delegates would be apportioned according to the vote count if no candidate gets a majority.

The third candidate remaining in the Republican race, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, is not expected to factor in the outcome in either state.

Both Trump and Cruz appealed to voters Saturday with tough promises to deal with illegal immigration into the United States.

Trump appeared at rallies in Arizona, one of the focal points of the contentious U.S. debate over illegal immigration from across the border with Mexico. Trump, who has vowed to build an impenetrable wall along the border, declared, "Illegal immigration is gonna stop. It's dangerous. Terrible."

Cruz, in Utah, pledged to block a number of U.S. cities from declaring themselves as "sanctuary cities," where officials try to protect illegal migrants from being arrested and deported.

Kasich, running a distant third in the race for the Republican presidential contest, told one interviewer Sunday that Trump's call to deport 11 million illegal immigrants already in the U.S. is impractical and  "a promise that will never happen."

The two Democratic presidential candidates, the leader, former secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and her sole challenger, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, also are squaring off in Arizona and Utah Tuesday, as well as in caucuses in a third western state, Idaho.

Sanders visited a U.S.-Mexican border outpost Saturday, promising to take more steps to keep immigrants from being deported. He denounced the "divisive, bigoted and xenophobic comments of people like Donald Trump."

Mrs. Clinton, with a substantial lead over Sanders for the Democratic presidential nomination, is planning Arizona rallies for Monday. She also has attacked Trump for his immigration views. 

Detained terror suspect
wants to sue prosecutor

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The lawyer defending Europe's most wanted terror suspect Salah Abdeslam says he will sue French prosecutors for releasing confidential information regarding the investigation.

Sven Mary told Belgian state broadcaster RTBF that part of the press conference given by lead prosecutor Francois Mollins violated judiciary confidentiality.

At a Paris news conference last week, Mullings read from a statement of Salah Abdeslam's saying that he wanted to blow himself up outside a soccer stadium, but changed his mind.

Mary said Saturday his client is cooperating with Belgian police, but will fight extradition to France.

The international police agency, Interpol, urged governments to be extra vigilant at their borders, saying Abdeslam's accomplices may try to flee Europe.
Belgium's foreign minister, Didier Reynders, said that Abdeslam had claimed that he was ready to restart something from Brussels.

In comments to security experts at a German Marshall Fund conference in Brussels, Reynders authorities have found more than 30 people involved in the terrorist attacks in Paris, but that there are possibly others.

Interpol has urged border control agents to look out for stolen passports and faked travel documents.

Police captured Abdeslam in the Molenbeek area of Brussels after a four-month manhunt. Three other people were arrested during Friday’s raid. Prosecutors identified them as members of a family that hid Abdeslam.

Abdeslam's exact whereabouts between the Nov. 13 terror attack and this week were unclear. But police  became certain he was in Brussels when they found evidence during a raid on another house while hunting for another suspect.

Abdeslam is suspected of helping others plot the attacks in Paris, including renting rooms for the terrorists and buying explosives.

The gun and bomb attack on the concert hall, cafes, and the football stadium killed 130 people.

Islamic State claimed responsibility, and Abdeslam's brother was among the suicide bombers. The attacks were prepared and coordinated, in part, in Brussels.

Eleven people have been arrested and charged in Belgium in connection with the killings. Eight are still behind bars.

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Ocean View Property for Sale in San Ramón
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                                for sale
the ocean and port of Puntarenas during the day, breathtaking views of Esparza at night. Fully titled and owned under a Costa Rican corporation. $50,000. Short-term owner financing available. For more info: Contact: Frank

Jacó beach unique home. First time offered
This house has never been listed.  It is a 3-bedroom, 1-bath home approx. 100 feet above sea level on the only hill in Jacó one mile to the beach.  Totally remodeled to a Gringo house.Has great fenced yard for dogs and a huge screened porch with  great views all around, including a small ocean view.  New in the last two years includes: new kitchen with granite counter, cedar cabinets, all new windows, tile, water system, updated electric & plumbing, superb new AC units (low electric bill), This is half of a duplex with a platted yard.  Other side is the chief of police.  Secure & private.  $169.900. Call Glenn at 506-6214-0056 or

La Uruca condo
Situated three miles west of the capital, eight miles from the airport. Quiet, secluded area within walking distance to a commercial center including a hotel, six restaurants,  next to two bus line stops. Car ownership is not needed. January-March air temperatures are 72 to 80 degrees F. Apartment 1,200 sq. ft (100 sq. meters), on ground floor, indoor  patio. Large windows without bars, parquet floors. Spacious living room-dining area, two bedrooms, maid's room, two bathrooms, four closets  (including walk-in), fully equipped kitchen (refrigerator, washing machine, small appliances, all necessary utensils, work tools).  Many amenities, (pictures, indoor plants, sewing machine, books, keyboard, dishes, glassware, silverware). Annual cost of maintenance about $1,350 includes water, landscaping service, garbage disposal, 24-7 security and property taxes. Price $120,000. Available for viewing:  Mid-January to beginning of April. Contact:  USA :  585 544-4296. Costa Rica : 506 2231-0410

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San Ramon
Mountain home w/million dollar view near San Ramón
Beautiful home in the mountains near San Ramón with 180-degree view of the gulf of Nicoya. 7 miles from San Ramón, 1 mile from Interamericana highway. 3,200 foot elevation so temp is 65 to 75 year around. Electric gate, private drive. house built in 2010. 2 bedrooms, 1 bath, appliances included. High-speed internet installed,  Price for sale $179,000    Contact Mike: 
Check out slide show HERE!

Grecia casa
Mountain home for sale
in Grecia.
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puriscal photo
Costa Rica home for sale $163,500 / 2bedroom - 1,984 ft2

Central Valley view home: 10 minutes from Santiago de Puriscal and shopping, hospital services, and soon Maxi Pali. Only one hour to San José or Pacific beaches.
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       ceramic tile throughout.
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Includes: Refrigerator, gas stove & oven with electric grill element, microwave, electric washer-gas dryer stacked style, gas on demand whole house water heater. Other furnishings are negotiable. ICE electric service and land line phone. Bajo Burgos Water district. Metro-wireless WiFi is available. Tigo Star Satellite T.V. House is in a Costa Rican corporation, will transfer shares. Contract or call 506 2416-9324.  Additional photos are available on Flickr album

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Several profitable businesses, including a regional radio station, are for sale in Costa Rica. Certain purchases can provide the new owner with residency as well as a great lifestyle. So live your dream while making a profit. Contact:

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News from the BBC up to the minute

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Latin news from the BBC up to the minute
Virtual reality ads create opportunities

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Advertising is practically inescapable these days, pervading our daily lives, mobile devices and now even virtual reality.

With the growing number of virtual reality headsets and apps coming to market, opportunities to experience VR are more readily available, but so too is the potential to experience more advertising.  Brands like Oreo, Mountain Dew, Jim Beam, Lufthansa and Marriott have already jumped on the virtual reality bandwagon, creating one-of experiences to engage consumers.  For these companies, whether the reality is physical or computer-generated is less important than capturing attention.

“Augmented reality and virtual reality are expected to hit $150 billion in revenue by 2020... that number is going to catch the eye of marketers,” said Katie Richards, staff writer at Adweek.

For brands, that means creating experiences that work alongside their own products, like last year’s collaboration between outerwear company Merrell and creative studio Framestore, to create a virtual reality mountain hike for the launch of Merrell’s Capra hiking boots.  Viewers were given the chance to virtually traverse the Dolomite Mountains of Italy.

“It really puts you in the space of what it’s like to wear the shoes and be in one of these really crazy environments,” noted Richards.

German airline Lufthansa also took viewers to new heights with its VR app, immersing them in a first-class business cabin, complete with flight attendants and champagne service.  The experience was created in collaboration with 3spin, a design and technology company specializing in 360-degree virtual reality filmmaking.

“Up until now, the most powerful medium on the planet or most immersive medium was a giant screen cinema or IMAX type of theater.  Virtual reality’s more immersive than that,” said NextVR co-founder DJ Roller. NextVR partners with brands like Fox Sports to transform live events into virtual reality.

“For an advertiser to be able to connect with their audiences in VR is a very powerful, and in some ways emotional sometimes, response you get,” Roller added.

With a captive audience built in, Roller sees advertising as a natural extension of the technology, “We’re able to erase and replace things very easily.”

That means a virtual reality viewer in Asia could see a more relevant ad during a Coldplay concert (one of the live events NextVR streamed in VR) than say, a U.S. viewer.

While it’s not clear how effective these VR campaigns are, one thing is for sure: they still cost money.

“It is quite expensive for the marketer and for the agency to create this experience,” noted Richards.  “The other challenge is making sure that what you’re doing stays true to your brand, and you’re not just experimenting with virtual reality to do it,” she added.

But for the digital natives that make up today’s youth, virtual reality might be as normal as chicken McNuggets.  In Sweden, participating McDonald’s restaurants have begun serving Happy Meals in boxes that convert to basic virtual reality viewers.

For digitally-savvy brands, virtual reality is one more way to reach the highly-coveted millennial demographic.

“Millennials are willing to spend a lot of money on experiences,” said Richards, “Virtual reality is a way for a marketer to give a millennial an experience that they might not have otherwise.”

An out-of-this-world experience that marketers hope will result in real world spending.

Costa Rican News
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Fine Dining in Costa Rica
The CAFTA Report
Fish fabulous Costa Rica

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From Page 7:

Rally in stocks credited to jump in crude oil

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The S&P 500 continued one of its biggest comebacks in history Friday, closing up for the year for the first time after rallying 200-plus points since the Feb. 11 low. Meanwhile, the Dow Jones industrial average has traded higher 12 out of the past 14 trading sessions.

The surge in stocks since the low has been due to the rally in crude oil. It recently crossed over $40 a barrel, a level it has not seen in months. As crude oil moved higher, so did the S&P 500 energy-related stocks like Exxon Mobil and Chevron.

The financial sector also made a comeback. Since the energy and financial sectors make up more than 22 percent of the index, they pulled the index down in January and the first few days of February. Now that both sectors have enjoyed a recovery, the S&P 500 has moved along with them.

The biggest driver of the upward momentum this week was the Federal Reserve as it announced that there would be no interest rate hikes, and it scaled back forecasts to two quarter-point raises in 2016.

In December, Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen said the Fed was on a course for gradual increases in short-term rates at a pace of four for the year. That outlook changed with falling commodity and stock prices, instability in China’s policy and slowing global growth.