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These articles were published Wednesday, April 9, 2003, in Vol. 3, No. 70
Jo Stuart
About us
Data first step in fighting immigation change
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The manager of a residents’ association is trying to gather ammunition so he can oppose a proposed change in the residency law.

The man, Ryan Piercy of the Association of Residents of Costa Rica, said Tuesday he wanted to gather statistical information from persons who live or lived in Costa Rica under the category of rentista.

That category would be eliminated from Costa Rican law if a proposed bill wins approval from the Asamblea Nacional. Piercy contends that the new law does not contain a residency category for persons who would have selected rentista.

"I desperately need the help of anyone who has moved here as a rentista, and also those who hope to move here as rentista," Piercy said in postings to various Internet groups involved with Costa Rica. He said he may be contacted at ryanpiercy@casacanada.net.

Piercy said he thinks that rentistas have a great deal of money invested in Costa Rica and that a change in the law to eliminate the category would hurt the country as well as would-be residents. Said Piercy:

"I would like those affected to participate in a questionnaire to try and get an idea of the profile 

of our average rentista to oppose the idea that there are so many 'suspected criminals' under specifically this type of residency."

Piercy’s association is made up mostly of expats and maitains a staff of lawyers to help foreigners win residency here.

A rentista can be of any age but must post $60,000 either in a Costa Rican bank or elsewhere and provide evidence of that transaction. The rentista must show each year that he or she has changed $1,000 a month from dollars to colons.  Unlike a pensionado, a rentista does not have to have an official pension from outside the country.

Piercy said that many professionals would be unable to retire to Costa Rica if the new law is passed because such persons do not have a formal pension. Instead they accumulate money in other forms of financial instruments.

The Costa Rican government is concerned because many cash-rich individuals with uncertain backgrounds have used the rentista category to gain the right to stay here.

Marco Badilla Chavarría, director general of Migración y Extranjeria, says that adequate new categories are created by the new law to accommodate persons who want to live here. But Piercy disagrees.

A.M. Costa Rica/Bryan Kay
Sarah Trubovitz, 11, holds a buho.

Colipatos congregate on leaves.

Central Valley butterfly exhibit proves popular
By Bryan Kay
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Deep beneath the main courtyard inside the old Bellavista Fortress, the Museo Nacional’s recently opened butterfly exhibition in the "Jardin Secreto" appears to be proving a popular attraction.

The subjects of the "secret garden" are butterflies. The garden was opened officially in January. The museum currently has an exhibition of various species of butterflies from across the Central Valley in which San José is situated. Visitors seem to be impressed by the iridescent beauty of the butterflies and the plants they are surrounded by.

There are 20 species of butterflies in the garden from which there are more than 300 members. Among the species are the buho,  banderita, colipato and the morfo.

The various butterflies dart unpredictably among the native plants and trees. Buhos, or the owl butterfly, are dull colored on one side of their wingspan and darkish blue on the other. They looked fearless as they embraced visitors frequently — some children in the garden could be seen freely holding the large buhos. 

Colipatos were less willing to land on visitors. Also known as the thoas swallowtail, the colipatos tended to bunch together on plants. 

In general, the butterflies were hard to track when they were in mid-air flight, though usually identification was straightforward given their distinct colors. And while most of the species flew incessantly, the colipatos could be easily seen, still, on plants.

Cindy Trubovitz, 46, and her daughters, who are visiting from San Diego, Calif., were impressed by the variety of species on display. Her youngest daughter, Julia, 8, looked mesmerized, particularly by the buhos. Mrs Trubovitz is a butterfly enthusiast but said she was intrigued by the garden because she has

never seen any of the species on display before.

Ron Troyano, 29, an American who recently arrived in Costa Rica from the Galapagos Islands, was also impressed by the exhibition. He was surprised that a garden of such environmental variety could be found in an urban setting. "You don’t expect to see something like this in a place like San José," he said.

The garden is relatively small and is easily navigated along one simple path. The garden is open-topped with a net in place to stop butterflies from escaping. There is running water, which provides a cooling effect.

One flaw is a lack of literature to guide the visitor through the garden. However there are plaques, with English translations, situated at various points along the garden trail. Also, there is an illustrated book at the head of the garden, though it is available only in Spanish.

Some of the plaques are specifically directed toward children. The plaques promote care for the environment. This ties in with the museum’s main purpose for the garden. "The primary purpose of this exhibition is to know the butterflies and the host plants that are found in the Central Valley of Costa Rica and to persuade people of the importance of conserving the natural environment, which will guarantee the permanence of these insects," says the museum.

The garden is open Tuesday through Sunday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The current exhibition will run until July 13. The entrance cost is 200 colons for adults. Children under 12, students and senior citizens (Costa Rican nationals only) enter free of charge. 

The museum is situated immediately east of the Plaza de la Democracia. For more information contact 256-4139 or 256-8643. The museum advises that parties greater than 10 should book 15 days in advance of their intended visit.

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Car inspection: some good, some inconsistencies
By Jay Brodell
editor of A.M. Costa Rica

The fourth time is a charm for revisión tecnica and my little car. But the whole process raises some concerns.

In all, my 1992 Hyundi Excel went to the Alajuela inspection station of Riteve S y C four times. The inspections proved to be inconsistent and raised a question about the validity of the process.

The inspection stations are clean, and the workers are well-groomed. An appointment process has reduced the waiting. But the following chronology suggests that all might not be well with the process.

Feb. 5

First shot at revisión tecnica. The vehicle is rejected for having excessive exhaust emissions. Three lesser faults were found: a cracked brake light lens, a cracked turn signal lens and a variation in the pull of the front and rear brakes. The three lesser faults (leve) do not result in rejection, only a warning. This is not unusual since three of every four vehicles brought to the inspection failed the first time, according to the company.

Three weeks later

A mechanic finds a broken part in the emissions control system, fixes it and avows that the car is ready for inspection.

March 5

A return to the same inspection station but without an appointment. Vehicles are backed up to the main highway. A guard suggests I better leave because only vehicles with appointments will be inspected.

March 12

I return to the same inspection station after having made an appointment. But the period in which I can be reinspected for free has expired. I pay 8,805 colons, a little more than $22.

This time the inspection is more rigorous, results in more problems and is inconsistent with the previous one.

The vehicle again is failed for excessive emissions, although the fault is less than half a percent in one of four emissions categories.

This time the handbrake is said to be faulty. The computerized screen actually showed that the rear brakes were weak, but the final computer printout targeted the handbrake. Both emissions and the hand brake were grave faults.

This time the inspection report said the exhaust pipe was corroded excessively (?). The inspection also showed that only one side of the window washer managed to get fluid on the windshield. The rear lens still had a crack. These still are leve and do not result in failure.

Two weeks later

A mechanic who is an expert in exhaust emissions applies a measurement device to the vehicle, and 

all exhaust categories are found to be in legal limits. He makes an adjustment to the hand brake. The mechanic suggests I hedge my bet by purchasing a bottle of a fluid that will reduce carbon dioxide emissions for a time.

April 1

Hardly any vehicles are at the inspection station at the same time, 3 p.m. A worker says the appointment system is the reason. The reinspection is free. 

The tech asks that I run the car at 1,000 rpms and then suggests that I wing it when he notices the car does not have a tachometer. Although no adjustments were made to the exhaust system, the car passes the emissions check in ranges that are about half the legal limit in each category.

The hand brake that was never faulty passes, too. The computer printout continues to report that the tail light lens is cracked and that the tailpipe is corroded. But the report of the faulty windshield washer magically vanishes.

In retrospect.

The car has problems with the front brakes, and the mechanic is awaiting parts to make the repair. The rear brakes probably could use new pads. But revisión tecnica did not highlight these areas of serious concern.

A lack of consistency between the front and rear brakes did not show up in the second full inspection.

The hand brake never was faulty and was singled out by some form of computer input error. Perhaps a tech punched the wrong button. 

The emissions measurement was inconsistent. Big differences were registered between March 12 and April 1 although no changes were made to the vehicle.

Mechanics speculate that waiting in line for the test might have caused the vehicle to emit more pollution. Or the testing equipment was not maintained properly. Some filters might not be changed as frequently as needed.

The brake problem is a serious concern. The front brakes on the vehicle are marginal, but the inspection did not show this. The rear brakes did not pass the second inspection but the computer mistakenly blamed the hand brake.

The test did result in locating a mechanical problem that, when fixed, reduced pollution.

Some suggestions

The inspection should concentrate on serious problems and not rusty tailpipes or windshield washers  particularly if deficiencies never result in rejection.

Some consideration should be given to checking the noise level of vehicles, including motorcycles.

A analysis of motor vehicle accidents over the next two years should conclude if the revision system is worth all the time and investment, but chances are the program is here to stay as a good source of jobs for younger technical graduates.

Chretien defending
his decision on Iraq

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

OTTAWA, Canada — Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien has reaffirmed his country's friendship with the United States, but says his government is standing by its decision not to send troops to Iraq. 

Speaking in parliament Tuesday, the prime minister said Canada's refusal to join the U.S.-led coalition was based on principle, not its friendship with the United States. 

He disassociated himself, however, from anti-American comments made by some lawmakers in his governing Liberal party.  The Bush administration has criticized Ottawa for failing to directly support U.S.-led war efforts in Iraq, although Canada is providing limited logistical support in the Persian Gulf. 

Canadian business leaders have said trade ties with the United States will suffer due to Canada's reluctance to send troops to Iraq. 

Motorist shot, dies
in Heredia attack

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Gunmen killed a 42-year-old man late Monday as he drove through San Joaquin de Flores in Heredia. Police are uncertain if the killing was a car jacking or an assassination.

The man, Freddy Vargas Estarda of Venecia de San Carlos was returning from San José where he had gone on errands. He was a businessman in his home town and was believed to have been seeking vehicles parts.

Persons in a gray sedan intercepted him as he drove in his Toyota Hi-Lux near the Megasuper in San Joaquin de Flores and fired into his vehicle, said agents from the Judicial Investigating Organization. A Fuerza Pública spokesman said police on the scene said one bullet hit Vargas in the right eye and caused him to drive his vehicle off a road into a business.

In all, some four bullets were fired, according to witnesses and reported by investigators. The shooting happened about 11:30 p.m. Vargas died at a hospital nearby.

Evaluations released
for study of ministries

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Some 21 per cent of the ministries and institutions got bad evaluations Tuesday in a study of goals conducted by the Presidencia. Some 27 percent of the agencies were listed as excellent.

The evaluations were based on how well the various ministries and institutions completed their assigned missions in the Plan Nacional de Desarrollo. Vice President Lineth Saborío, who was acting as president in the absence of Abel Pacheco, received the reports at a Consejo de Gobierno meeting in the morning and released the information in a press conference later.

Officials said the evaluations will be conducted every six months now instead of every year.

Getting a low evaluation was, among others the Ministerio de Ambiente y Energia. But the Minsterio de Obras Públicas y Transporte got high marks.

Motorcyclists shoot man
and steal briefcase

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two men on a motorcycle shot and robbed a man who carried a briefcase full of money in Higuerón de San Pedro.

Investigators said the victim was Dagoberto Monge Gamboa. He got out of his vehicle about 7 p.m. near the Organización de Asuntos Forestales where he works when the two men, faces covered with motorcycle helmets, arrived and shot him in the leg. They took the briefcase with 2 million colons (some $5,140) and two gold chains worth about 200,000 colons ($515), said investigators.

U.S. Embassy closed

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

U.S. Embassy officials remind citizens that Friday is a Costa Rican holiday, the 147th anniversary of the Battle of Rivas, so the embassy and the consulate will be closed.

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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A.M. Costa Rica goes to the movies
We just dare you to like this superhero character
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Superheroes like to take to the skies and the rooftops. The space is crowded up there: Superman, Batman, Gargoyles, the Crow, Spiderman.

Now here comes Daredevil. As superheroes go, he has all the moves and a nifty red rubber suit. He happens to be blind, but that seems to be a minor 
inconvenience because he sees with soundwaves. Huh?

If the casual viewer is confused by sound-wave seeing, just wait. Our hero also seems to defy gravity by leaping off buildings and landing without doing any harm to himself. 

The movie that is showing in the Central Valley now

The Daredevil
is based on the Marvel comics character. The show is unabashedly a setup for a sequel. The bad guy is cleverly nicknamed "the Kingpin." Good guys and bad guys are martial arts experts. So is the girl, but she likes swords, too.

The viewer is left wondering how a blind man can walk, fight, sort of fly without messing up even a bit. The viewer also wonders when the heck the show will be over.

The plot is right out of many other grade B movies. 

Young hero’s dad is killed by a bad guy and this starts him on the road to vengeance which he accomplishes by taking to the roof in his nifty red rubber suit.

With the arrival of the girl, a Batlady markdown, the hero has second thoughts about his judge-and-jury attitude and embarks on an identity crisis.  Schizophrenia seems to be an occupational hazard in the superhero business when one has to maintain a normal lifestyle by day in order to flit around the rooftops at night. By day, the Daredevil is a lawyer.

This movie is a bad mixture of a string of Marvel comics. The plot lacks adequate explanation and is unsatisfying. The Daredevil is Ben Affleck, who needs to have a long talk with his agent.

The love interest, Elektra Natchios, is all any guy would want: beautiful, well-connected, very wealthy, except for the aforementioned habit of playing with knives, her eventual downfall. Elektra, played by Jennifer Garner, is a good guy in the movie. Her status in the comic book series is that of an assassin and antihero.

There has been a lot of hype for "Daredevil." Director Mark Steven Johnson seems to have stitched together uncritically the storylines from many comic books without giving the new viewer a chance to assimilate the background. 

Or maybe we are just getting fed up with neurotic rooftop superheroes.

-Jay Brodell

Our reward offer is still $500

Louis Milanes

Luis Enrique Villalobos Camacho
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

This newspaper seeks the prompt return of two men who ran high-interest investment operations that have gone out of business.

Luis Enrique Villalobos Camacho, 62, was associated with Ofinter S.A., a money exchange house, and with his own private investment business that had about $1 billion in other people’s money on the books.

Villalobos closed his business Oct. 14 and vanished.

Louis Milanes operated Savings Unlimited and several casinos in San José. He left the country with other members of his firm the weekend of Nov. 23. He may have as much as $260 million in his possession. Both operations catered to North Americans.

Villalobos had about 6,300 customers. Milanes had about 2,400.

Villalobos and Milanes are the subjects of international arrest warrants.  Associates of both men have been jailed.

A.M. Costa Rica has posted a $500 reward for information leading to the detention of either man with the hopes that others will make similar pledges. The newspaper believes that investors only will see some of their money when the two men are in custody.

Milanes has few supporters in San José. On the other hand, as the letters frequently on this page show, Villalobos still has supporters who believe that he will reappear and settle his debts. They believe he is in hiding because of a predatory Costa Rican government.

An invitation to enter our photo contest
The first A.M. Costa Rica photo contest welcomes your submissions and will award a prize of $100 in each of five categories.

The deadline for submission is April 15. The contest was announced in November.

Five categories have been established:

1. DEADLINE NEWS: A news photo that shows a breaking news event, such as, but not only, crime, accidents, fires, arrests.

2. SCENIC: Landscape scenes which may or may not include people as a secondary emphasis.

3. WILDLIFE: Photos that have as their principal subject one or more animals, plants or insects.

4. SPORTS: A photo related to one of the major or minor sports, team or individual.

5. PEOPLE:  A photo that has as its principal emphasis one or more persons, including individual portraits. 

Deadline is April 15

BASIC RULES: The photo must be taken by the person who submits it, and he or she, as a condition of submission, agrees to give A.M. Costa Rica the right to publish the photo in A.M. Costa Rica. Upon publication, the photo will be covered by A.M. Costa Rica’s copyright, which the newspaper will happily assign back to the contestant upon request. As a condition of submission, the contestant affirms that he or she owns full rights to the photo and that it has never before been published in any professional medium.

The photo must have been taken within the borders or territorial waters of Costa Rica between Nov. 15 and the contest deadline. 

Only one entry per photographer is allowed in each category. Judges reserve the right to place the photo in another category during the selection process.
Employees, shareholders or interns with A.M. Costa Rica may not enter the contest. 

This is an open competition. No distinction will be made between professional and amateur photographers.

A.M. Costa Rica, at its option, will publish photos and information including the name of the photographer, as submissions are made.

The management of A.M. Costa Rica and judges are the final authority on contest rules and submissions.

TECHNICALITIES: The photos must be sent digitally via e-mail to 

editor@amcostarica.com, and the subject line must specify "photo contest." Within the body of the e-mail, the contestant must specify into which category the photo is submitted. The photo should be between 4 and 8 inches in width and contain no less than 72 pixels per inch of density. Each photo should not be larger than 200 k.

The e-mail message must clearly state the name and the circumstances surrounding the taking of the photo and the date the photo was taken. 

The photo should be in jpeg format and sent as an attachment with the file name as the number of the category in which it is being submitted followed by the name of the photographer.

For example, the file name of a photo in the sports category taken by Mr. Jones would be 4jones.jpeg or 4jones.jpg

PRIZES:  A first place winner will be named in each category, and the prize will be $100 paid via Pay Pal, the electronic fund-transfer system.

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