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(506) 2223-1327         Published Thursday, March 24, 2011, in Vol. 11, No. 59          E-mail us
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Proposed law would tighten up possession of guns
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Lawmakers will have the opportunity to tighten up the country's gun laws, although there is no guarantee that they will do so.

A proposed, stricter law was the topic of a forum Wednesday at the legislative assembly complex. The principal change to the existing law is that the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública will set up a tougher course of instruction for those who would seek permits to carry a weapon. The current course was characterized as very basic.

The proposed law also requires better marksmanship. Under the current law, those seeking a permit to carry a sidearm must fire 10 shots into a piece of letter paper at a distance of six meters, just short of 20 feet. The new proposal would require hitting a moving target, and those who have a permit would have to prove there competence each time they renewed their five-year permit. The proposal would require 10 to 30 shots and demonstration of the ability to reload a weapon.

The proposal also would require a separate test for every type of weapon. The summary to the bill mentions the current classes of driver's license. Someone with a basic passenger car license cannot drive a heavy truck or a motorcycle.

The proposed law would regulate individuals by the caliber of the weapon. Someone who obtained a permit for a .22-caliber sidearm could not carry a .38-caliber pistol. And revolvers were differentiated from pistols. So someone who passed a test for a .45-caliber pistol could not carry a .38-caliber revolver without taking another test.

The proposal also requires permit seekers to provide a blood test report that shows they are not drug users. Marijuana endures in the blood for at least a month, but cocaine traces vanish in a day or two.

The proposal continues the practice of requiring a certification by a psychiatrist attesting to the mental soundness of the applicant. That rule went into effect during the presidency of Abel Pacheco, a psychiatrist, and has generally been considered an unnecessary expense. A quick meeting with a psychiatrist does not allow sufficient time for a real evaluation.

Only foreigners who have held permanent residency for five years would be allowed to carry a weapon. The five-year requirement seems to be 
guns galore
Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía
y Seguridad Pública photo
Here is a cache of arms Fuerza Pública officers found when they stopped a car in Moín March 13. The driver had a permit to carry one weapon but the rest were illegal, police  said.

new. Special permits would be issued for visitors who come to Costa Rica to compete with weapons or for some other legitimate purpose, like training.

The proposal is comprehensive. It even forbids the possession of tanks of war, missiles and nuclear arms. The proposal also covers security guards and police officers, who would have to renew their permits every two years. The measure does not include proposals that were advanced by Laura Chinchilla before she became president to limit the number of weapons a citizen may possess to three.

The proposal is generally friendly to gun ownership. A preface recognizes the increase in current crime and notes that a country like Switzerland with the highest rate of personal gun ownership also has a very low gun murder rate. The proposal defines legitimate defense in the face of a threat and appears to increase the penalties for possession of a weapon without a permit. AK-47s of all types still would be outlawed.

Juan Diego Castro, a lawyer who frequently comments on criminal matters, told the forum Wednesday that the penalties should be even higher for carrying a gun without a permit or for having an unregistered weapon. He also wanted a penalty inserted for threatening someone with a weapon.

Illegal gun possession is rampant in Costa Rica. Not only criminals but ordinary citizens have weapons.

The bill's summary notes that the civil war in Nicaragua left a large source of weapons and that a number of highly publicized murder cases were the result of fire from illegal weapons.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, March 24, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 59

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Year predicted to be wetter
with earlier seasonal change


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rican weather experts are predicting a wetter than average year. Figures released Wednesday predict 30 percent more rain in the Central Valley and central Pacific with 35 percent more in Guanacaste. Even the Caribbean will be wetter, said the estimates with the Limón Centro area getting 10 percent more rain and the southern Caribbean getting 5 percent.

No part of the country will have below average amounts, said the Instituto Meteorológico Nacional.

For a location like Jacó and Quepos, the predictions are for 42 inches additional rain, some 1,075 millimeters, said the weather agency.

2010 also was a wet year with the central Pacific getting 78 percent more rain than normal, some 2,796 millimeters or about 110 inches.

The weather institute also said that the season already was changing in the south Pacific. That is the place where the rainy season ends latest and begins earliest.

The agency predicted the beginnings of the rainy season in the central Pacific April 16 to 20. In the Central Valley the dates are April 26 to 30. In the north Pacific, the seasonal change is predicted to be May 1 to 5. In all cases these are earlier than normal by about a week or two.

Our readers' opinions
Two solutions for dispute
over the Río San Juan


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Now that Costa Rica and Nicaragua have time to sit back and analyze the San Juan river problem and the Hague decision, before they get their hackles up again, I would suggest that Costa Rica show true statesmanship and convene a conference with Nicaragua to make a practical solution to the river problem. For economical reasons Nicaragua needs good shipping access from Lake Nicaragua to the Caribbean. The most practical route is through the land strip that Nicaragua has cut in Costa Rica's territory.
 
Granted, I have no idea of proper international protocol or the appropriate way for countries to solve border problems. As a practical person I can see two workable solutions to the problem.
 
1.) In return for a formal and hard agreement with Nicaragua, that the border between Costa Rica and Nicaragua be the south shore of the current San Juan River boundary, Costa Rica would allow and even participate in the construction of a new canal from the San Juan to the Caribbean. This would allow Costa Rica to charge a passage fee for the bypass route to river San Juan and, in the future, Costa Rica might even consider building a new port for the country.
 
2) Nicaragua and Costa Rica might consider a land trade. Costa Rica would give up all rights to land north of the land cut by Nicaragua in exchange for a piece of land extending from the Costa Rica border to Lake Nicaragua wide enough to drive or lay railway tracks or both and a lake head area big enough to build a port, also guaranteed shipping rights on Lake Nicaragua and the San Juan river.

This would benefit both countries. Nicaragua would have total control over the river from sea to the lake, Costa Rica would gain a port for shipping goods produced in the northern zones to world markets. Both countries could increase their cross border commerce.
 
I my opinion, the Hague Court has proved ineffectual. Costa Rica and Nicaragua can show the world how two mature nations can lead by example by removing this thorn and healing the wounds.
John Steward
Charlotte, North Carolina

In praise of Barack Obama
and his recent Latin Visit


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:
 
My congratulations to President Barack Obama for his efforts and actions in Latin America these past few days.  It is indeed a pleasure to have a president who focuses on ridding the world of a North African despot rather than providing support to despots and dictators in Central and South America.  This President knows that all of us living in the Western Hemisphere are indeed Americans.
Kent Carthey
San Francisco, California
and Playa del Coco

 
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!

From the Costa Rican press
News items posted Monday through Friday by 8 a.m.
Click a story for the summary






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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, March 24, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 59  
Latigo K-9

little guys
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Real or reproductions. There really is not a good way to find out without damage.
Sometimes real or fake is in the eyes of the beholders
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The government of México and a French auction house are disputing the authenticity of a Maya statue that just sold for $4.2 million.

México says it's a fake. The auction house stands by its sale.

The dispute could very well be argued in Costa Rica where many statues and other artifacts claim an ancient origin. And there really is no easy way of telling.

In the case of the Mayan statue, México authorities base their claim of falsity to the garments being worn by the statute. They are out of place based on the time period, they said. To prove the case one way or the other involves scientific tests that are not always reliable.

Many Costa Ricans have miniature museums with extensive and uncatalogued collections of ancient ceramics. Many of these collections predate the modern laws against private ownership of such materials.

Yet, many of the same figures and pots can be found at the Sunday flea market in Sabana Este. Are they stolen? Are they copies? Are they fresh from some unrecorded find?

A former director of the Museo Nacional lost her job because her family kept an extensive collection of pre-Columbian ceramics and other artifacts. She failed to report the materials, officials said. Yet the collection may be legal.

Museum officials periodically raid a location and carry off pots, figures and even those unusual stone balls that are a
hallmark of early south Pacific culture. Sometimes they need a flatbed truck.

Clay artifacts can be dated to some extent by thermoluminescence, which measures the radiation put out when the object is heated. However, there is debate over the accuracy. And delicate statues might suffer major damage from the technique.

When the early Costa Ricans made a statue they also used  grass and other plant fibers to fortify the clay. Radiocarbon dating can be used on organic materials. That also is a measure of the carbon 14 isotope remaining in the object. That requires destruction of the material, but sometimes plant pieces can be removed without obviously damaging the artifact.

Neither of these methods will help when an expat is challenged leaving the country or entering his or her home country with what looks like an archaeological piece.
Taking heritage materials from Latin countries is a no-no. Several San José craftsmen produce outstanding replicas of ancient statues. Artisans in the village of San Vicente de Nicoya have been producing pottery for 4,000 years. First for the Mayans and inhabitants of the Valley of México and now for tourists.

Archaeologists also applaud eBay for creating a platform where many fake pieces can be sold, thereby taking pressure off the originals.

For expats and tourists, however, the best protection is a bill of sale with a clear description stating that the piece is a reproduction.


Vehicle contained a flat screen television taken from a judge
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A San José judge was the victim of a home invasion in which crooks took, among other things, a flat screen television.

Fuerza Pública officers located the television set Wednesday in a vehicle driven by a man who also was transporting other merchandise. The stop was in San Sebastián in southern San José Centro.
The judge had reported her loss and gave officials enough information to identify the television. Many crimes like this are not reported.

Police also recovered three vehicle radios, another television, sound equipment and two speakers, said the Fuerza Pública.

The judge was not identified, but officials said that her home had been entered violently.


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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, March 24, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 59  


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Inspectors go over an inventory of alcohol at a warehouse in San Antonio de Desamparados.

bad booze
Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública photo


Three raids turn up suspect liquor that police confiscate

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Police are continuing to confiscate alcohol that they say is adulterated. But there also are cases where the alcohol tax has not been paid.

The Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública said that health officials ordered the confiscation of the alcohol because it was adulterated with ethanol. But ethanol is the substance that gives alcohol its punch. Ethanol frequently is known as drinking alcohol or grain alcohol.

Nevertheless, there were three raids Wednesday. One was at a storage location and two were at supermarkets.  Participating were officials from the Fábrica Nacional de
Licores, the government alcohol monopoly.

One raid was at a storage facility in San Antonio de Desamparados where vodka with the brand name Sachetto was confiscated along with guaro carrying the Montano label, said police. Sacchetto is a Anheuser-Busch product distilled in Italy.

In Patarra agents located more bottles of Montano and other brands and confiscated some 182 bottles. In the same community at another supermarket the agents located 484 bottles, mostly guaro, said police.

Shipments of untaxed alcohol come in from Panamá because of the loose border conditions there. Tax inspectors have problems with other products, too, such as cigarettes.



Web site seeks to shame Heredia customers of transvestites

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Here's a Web site where those featured probably are not very happy. The site seeks to identify persons who frequent transvestite prostitutes in Heredia by copying down and publishing the plate number.

The site said it had 800 Internet visits in the last 22 days.
An example of one posting:

Attention Doña María:

The vehicle plate xxxxxx registered in your name picked up a transvestite Friday in the hours of the night by a man of advanced age. The same parked with the transvestite a kilometer away from the point of pickup.

"Know the perverts who are involved with men dressed as women for sexual ends," says the home page title.
The initial posted on the page Feb. 20 said that Neighbors in the city of Heredia want to put an end once and for all with the big problem of transvestites who cause disturbances, crimes, insecurity and dirtiness.

So the site is publishing to shame clients and publish the plate numbers, photos and videos, it added.

There are a few photo but no videos. However, the Web site lists a public bus and a school bus that was involved in contact with the transvestite prostitutes.

The site does not say who is responsible but does publish letters and tips from readers.

Th technique is not new. Even police in the United States have published photos of persons detained for frequenting street prostitutes and sometimes the plate numbers were listed.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, March 24, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 59

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Carbon tax prompts protest
in many Australian cities

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Protests have taken place across Australia against plans by the Labor government to implement a carbon tax.  Critics say, without a binding global agreement, the proposed levy will cost jobs and damage the economy.  Hundreds of people have attended demonstrations in the national capital, Canberra, as well as in Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth. 

Protesters say they are just ordinary Australian workers and taxpayers who feel betrayed by the government’s plans to put a price on carbon.  They insist it would damage the economy and drive up the cost of living by making energy far more expensive.

"There is a ground swell of people that have finally had a gut full," says a protester.

Another one says, "Since the Labor government has come into this country, the union rules.   We just cannot do it anymore.  We have no more money left to pay the taxes."

However, supporters of the tax believe it would encourage the development of a low-carbon economy and cut pollution in Australia, which is one of the world’s worst per capita emitters of greenhouses gases.   In theory, polluting industries would be encouraged to reform because lower emissions would lead to a smaller tax liability. 

Although precise details are still to be worked out, the government would use the receipts to compensate businesses and households for higher energy bills, as well as funding renewable energy projects to create employment.

The protesters have the support of the conservative opposition leader, Tony Abbott.

He has led a vociferous campaign against the government’s carbon tax plans.

Abbott says that, without a global carbon pricing agreement, Australian businesses would be less competitive.

"A one-sided carbon tax, a unilateral carbon tax is an act of economic self-harm," he said.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard says that opposition to the plan will not derail it.    

"Now, I understand there is always going to be a variety of views in the community.  We’ll see that on display today, but pricing carbon is the right thing for our nation’s future and that is why I am determined to do it," she said.

The prime minister hopes to bring in a tax on carbon next year, before introducing an emissions-trading scheme as early as 2015.   She insists that, without these key economic reforms, Australia will be left behind by its international competitors.

However, Australia’s economy relies on cheap supplies of coal that generate more than 80 percent of the nation’s electricity.  The country’s challenge is to harness abundant sources of renewable energy, including solar, wind and geothermal, cheaply and effectively.

Many scientists have warned Australia is particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change and warn the vast island could suffer more severe droughts, storms and floods as a result.   Other Australians, including many farmers and some conservative politicians, believe that man-made pollution is having a negligible effect on the climate and the sea shifts in temperatures as part of a natural cycle.

Twitter celebrates five years
over 140-character messages


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

It has been five years since Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey sent out the first message of the social medium, "just setting up my twttr."

Since then, the micro-blogging site has grown to more than 140 million text messages of 140 characters or less every day.

Users now fire off messages at a rate of about a billion every eight days.  In comparison, it took slightly more than three years and two months for the first billion tweets to be sent at the service.

It registers nearly half a million new accounts daily.

Twitter messages, called Tweets, have been sent by astronauts like T.J. Creamer, politicians like President Barack Obama; earthquake and tsunami survivors in Japan and protesters in Egypt.
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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, March 24, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 59

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Latin American news
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New tourism income data
shows visitors' crucial role

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The island of Saint Lucia receives annual tourism revenues in excess of 31 prcent of its gross domestic product while in the Bahamas and Antigua & Barbuda tourists spend the equivalent of 29 percent of these countries' GDP.

These three Caribbean nations top the list for the share of inbound visitor consumption in the region, according to data given by the Economic Commission for Latin America in its publication "Latin America and the Caribbean: Macroeconomic Indicators for Tourism."

The tourist sector plays a crucial role in many of the region's economies, in terms of job creation and production, as well as currency generation, the commission said. This document shows the economic importance of this sector in a given country and assesses some of its main characteristics, it added.

Although for Latin America and the Caribbean as a whole, tourism revenues represent 1.8 percent of GDP from 1980 to 2008, for the Caribbean subregion in particular this percentage is 16.6 percent. In Central American countries, the average figure is 5 percent from 1980 to 2009), while for some South American countries (such as Uruguay), the proportion was almost 4 percent for the same period.

The commission report presents the main Latin American and Caribbean results of a project to formulate indicators for the macroeconomic analysis of tourism at the world level, which is being carried out in conjunction with the World Tourism Organization of the United Nations.

The macroeconomic indicators included in this document, which is only available online, relate to international tourism, which means revenues that a country receives for the export of tourist services (inbound tourism) and the spending carried out by the country's residents to import tourism services (outbound tourism).

In most Caribbean countries, indicators for the share of GDP represented by inbound visitor consumption (spending by non-residents) are highly significant. The figures for 2009 show that, in several countries, this proportion is around 30 percent. Meanwhile, about 50 percent of these countries' exports of goods and services would take the form of tourism-related exports, like travel and passenger transportation account in the balance of payments.

For Central America, these indicators also point to the importance of tourism for these economies, where inbound visitor consumption represented around 10 percent of GDP in 2009 and about 20 percent of exports of goods and services.







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