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(506) 2223-1327         Published Thursday, April 10, 2008, in Vol. 8, No. 71            E-mail us
Jo Stuart
Real Estate
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Government decrees controls on N. Pacific growth
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The central government decreed what amounts to a zoning plan for the whole northern Pacific coast Wednesday in places where local plans do not exist.

A summary from Casa Presidencial said that the goal was to establish density limits for construction and set the maximum height for buildings.

The measure also will have the effect of permitting coastal development to go ahead in the absence of a local plan regulador. This has been a stumbling block for many coastal projects.

The decree, which has the force of law, regulates land up to 4 kms. (about 2.5 miles) for the coast. It defines its area of coverage as the Región Chorotega, basically the northwest coast of the country.

The package of decrees was signed by President Óscar Arias Sánchez; Rodrigo Arias, minister of the Presidencia; Carlos Ricardo Benavides, minister of Turismo; Fernando Zumbado, minister of Vivienda y Asentamientos Humanos; Jorge Woodbridge, minister of Competitividad, and  Roberto Dobles, minister of Ambiente y Energía.

Officials said that the Cámara de la Construcción, the Colegio Federado de Ingenieros y Arquitectos and the Consejo de Desarrollo Inmobiliario were consulted in advance.

The decrees are supposed to endure for four years 
in places where the land is not covered by a plan regulador, basically a zoning and development plan.

The decrees set out four areas. The first is the public area of the Zona Marítimo Terrestre, the maritime zone. This is the 50 meters above the high tide line. Except for specialized ocean related facilities like docks, construction is forbidden here.

The next 150 meters, the restricted zone, is where developers can obtain concessions or long-term leases from the municipality and the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo.

The decrees establish two more zones. One has been called the intermedia, and this includes the next 800 meters after the restricted zone. The fourth zone is all the land from the limit of the intermedia to 4 kms. above mean high tide, in other words a strip 3 kms. wide.

According to the decrees, developments within the restricted zone can be no taller than 16 meters (52.5 feet). Casa Presidencial said this was three floors.

Buildings in the intermedia can be 24 meters tall, nearly 79 feet. Casa Presidencial said this was five floors. The final zone farthest from the beach can have structures 36 meters tall (118 feet). Casa Presidencial described this as eight floors.

The actual height rather than the number of floors seems to be the controlling factor in the decrees.
The text of the decrees will be published in the official La Gaceta.

Youth who got murdered girl's kidney is talking to his mom now
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The 14-year old who received a kidney transplant from a murdered girl, was sitting up and talking Wednesday, reported his mother.

The youth, Brandon José Sancho Campos, received a kidney transplant soon after doctors told his family that he would not live much longer.

Sancho's mother Rosibeth Campos, travels to Hospital Mexico daily on a bus to visit her son. The drive is about an hour from her home in San Rámon, Alajuela, said Ms. Campos, who made the trip alone Wednesday.

Ms. Campos was clad in a pink polo shirt and had a bright face despite the news that her son will have to stay hospitalized longer than first expected. She is worried about her child, she said, because she heard about another boy whose body rejected the kidney he was given. But so far everything is functioning well for her son, who was sleeping Wednesday afternoon, she said.

Ms. Campos was ready to donate her kidney but was told at the last minute that her heart was not strong enough for the operation. Just when all seemed lost, the parents of a girl fatally shot over the weekend decided to donate their daughter's organs. The 11-year old girl was killed when robbers chasing her uncle shot into the family's house in San José.
Brandon Jose
Brandon José Sancho

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, April 10, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 71

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teachers on strike
A.M. Costa Rica/Elise Sonray
Even a protest against the free trade treaty with the United States (TLC from the Spanish title) could be found among the teachers.

Teachers on the march again
despite government action

By Elise Sonray
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Teachers' voices boomed through loud speakers and stopped traffic on Avenida 2 as hundreds marched for higher wages Wednesday morning.
The main group present was Asociación de Profesores de Segunda Enseñanza, whose members have been on strike since the end of March.

Daniel Quesada, a high school teacher from Alajuela, said teachers are demanding three things.

“First we don't want bad pay. Second we want to be treated as the professionals that we are. And last the government wants to put 40 kids in a classroom, and we think there should be less than 30.”

Quesada who teaches at Colegio Tecnico in Alajuela, has been teaching for six years, he said. He said that it is possible that the strike could last much longer, but that teachers are waiting for more negotiations with the Ministerio de Educación Pública.

Various groups of teachers, students, and supporters marched. The group split up to demonstrate in front of the Ministerio de Trabajo, Casa Presidencial, the education ministry and the Ministerio de Hacienda.

Tuesday the public education ministry agreed to give a pay raise to certain educators, but Wednesday's demonstration made it clear that the strike will continue.

Our readers opinions
Praise for Garland Baker

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I want to commend Garland Baker on his very informative article in the Monday edition. I have been through a nightmare with bad tenants, was able to get them to leave before the three-year term expired with incentives (rent not charged), and had to renovate and fix up the whole structure due to incredible neglect. One of the renters is now wanted by the police, as I found out recently.

His distinction of social interest property is very critical and applies in my case as my house is close but less than this amount of $50,000. It is critical that absentee owners, who have bought a property for future use but are not yet able to use it and who intend to gain income, are aware of these facts, and his article has given me further information, that will make me very cautious about any further rental agreements with Ticos or foreigners.
Geoff Barron
Toronto, Canada

Hotel has no political agenda

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:
A random call to an employee of a corporation, when the employee is not named and the corporation is, implies that said employee is a spokesperson for said corporation. This was not true in the case of a story printed in A.M. Costa Rica regarding opinions of random people with respect to the FARC [Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia] and its possible government connections published last week.
In the text regarding a call to an employee of Hotel California, the hotel name was mentioned and the speaker's name was not. Hotel California has no political views regarding the FARC, the president of Costa Rica or any other related topics. Our only political view as a business is the support of all government programs, initiatives or other  legislation that promotes what is good for tourism. We advocate road maintenance, water access, improvement of electricity and any and all improvements to the infrastructure that supports tourism. Apart from that, as a corporate entity, we have no other political agendas.
The opinion expressed in the article has nothing to do with Hotel California. It was the opinion of a receptionist who is, of course, entitled to her opinions. But she is not, nor has she ever been, a spokesperson for the hotel.
Robbie Felix
owner, Hotel California
Manuel Antonio

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, April 10, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 71

Ms. Chinchilla promotes citizen march as crime-fighting tool
By Elise Sonray
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Vice President Laura Chinchilla outlined a new security initiative to the nation Wednesday, as Janina del Vecchio, the soon-to-be security minister stood by. The plan includes a public march against violence.

Chinchilla introduced the new plan called “Recuperar la Paz” or “Recover the Peace,” at Casa Presidencial, although neither President Óscar Arias Sánchez nor his brother Rodrigo Arias, the minister of the Presidencia, attended the event. The new security plan involves working together and changing the community's attitude towards crime, said Ms. Chinchilla. It calls on the public sector, private sector and individuals to work together, although the vice president did not give specifics.

The march is April 26, the day after Ms. Vecchio is to be sworn in. The march is meant to symbolize “the personal promise of each citizen to work on the recovery of the peace in our houses, neighborhoods and cities,” said a presidential spokesperson. Everyone is encouraged to wear white and the march will begin at the Plaza de la Justicia.

After the the initiative was presented, Ms. Vecchio was asked to respond to the criticism that she is only a math teacher and has no security experience.
“People don't want a military person or a police officer as  the security minister," she said. "They want someone who integrates all levels of the community.” 

“We want police like we had when we were kids, police who know the community and the schools,” said Ms. Vecchio, who also discussed the importance of family and democracy.
One theme of the new campaign is, “peace is not recovered with more violence and more aggression, but with the bravery and will to change an attitude and improve.”  Ms. Chinchilla said she will have the heads of all the major branches of government sign a document declaring their support on Friday. The document will state that the security for the citizens is a priority in the actions of the government.

Ms. Chinchilla is serving as security minister temporarily. In addition to being vice president, she is minister of Justicia y Gracia. Her ministry runs the prisons.

Ms. Chinchilla also is the administration's lead person on security. She had come under criticism for the security proposal she helped write and present to the Asamblea Legislativa. The plan seeks to limit the ownership of firearms by citizens and take a sociological approach to crime-fighting.

Criminal complaints by tourists reported to be lower in 2008
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Crimes against tourists are down in San José in the first two months of the year, according to the security ministry.

The ministry, the Ministerio Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública, reported Wednesday that in January and February crimes against tourists were down from last year. They did not report the numbers from March however. Reported crime in the first two months were down 29.6 percent since last year, from 169 reported crimes to 119 reported crimes.

It is difficult to calculate how many tourists actually report their crimes, said Carlos Hidalgo a spokesman from the security ministry. In order to report a crime, a tourist must file a complaint at the Judicial Investigation Organization.
Many times tourists leave the country before they can file a
complaint, or don't understand that they must do so. Some readers have told A.M. Costa Rica that they don't file complaints because they don't think the police will do anything. Consequently crime statistics here are just a guide.

Hidalgo said crime against tourists was also down in most coastal areas, but he did not have the exact numbers.

There seems to be a trend for Central Valley criminals to travel frequently to the coast where the pickings are better and police coverage is uncertain.

These types of crimes are down, according to the security ministry, because of the increased number of tourism police.

The crimes in the report were broken down into various groups including car breakins, house robberies, robberies on the street, thefts at office buildings, and petty theft, said Hidalgo.

PriceSmart, Inc., reports a 27.1 percent increase in second quarter sales
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Not all U.S. economic news is bad. PriceSmart, Inc., the company that operates four warehouse markets in Costa Rica, reported a 27.1 percent increase in sales for the second quarter of its fiscal year that ended Feb. 29.

The company said it had sales of $288.1 million compared to $226.7 million in the same quarter of 2007.

Part of the sales boost came from the two warehouse markets that went into operation since the second quarter of 2007, the company noted. It now has 25 operations.

PriceSmart recorded operating income in the second quarter of $10.7 million compared to operating income of $9.6 million in the second quarter of the prior year.
Net income was $9.5 million compared to $6.5 million in the second quarter of fiscal year 2007.

Total revenues for the first half of the fiscal year increased 25.3 percent to $544.3 million from $434.4 million in the same period of the prior year. 

PriceSmart, headquartered in San Diego, Calfornia, owns and operates U.S.-style membership shopping warehouse clubs in Central America and the Caribbean.

The operations are in 11 countries and one U.S. territory. In addition to Costa Rica, there are four in Panamá, three each in Guatemala and Trinidad, two each in Dominican Republic, El Salvador and Honduras and one each in Aruba, Barbados, Jamaica, Nicaragua and the U. S. Virgin Islands.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, April 10, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 71

Congressional Democrats plan to shelve Colombia trade deal
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Democratic Party leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives have announced plans to indefinitely postpone action on a free trade pact the Bush administration negotiated with Colombia.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says now is not the time for a vote on the Colombian free trade deal.

She says she is asking House members to change the rules for consideration of trade pacts in this particular case, and remove the requirement for action within 90 days.

Pelosi says Congress wants more time to make sure its concerns are met — particularly in the areas of worker and human rights. She also makes clear that dealing with the struggling U.S. economy is a higher priority.

"We're first and foremost here to look out for the concerns of America's working families," said Ms. Pelosi. "I take this action with deep respect to the people of Colombia and will be sure that any message they receive is one of respect for their country, and the importance of the friendship between our two countries."

The president sent the trade agreement to Congress for consideration on Tuesday. Ms. Pelosi says she urged him to
delay and warned the White House the measure could not pass in its present form.

Word that Ms. Pelosi wants to put the measure on hold has infuriated the White House. Spokeswoman Dana Perino says the rule change will have a chilling effect on future trade negotiations.

"We think this is an awful precedent," said Ms. Perino. "We think it's a terrible thing for this administration, but it's also terrible for all future administrations, both Republicans and Democrats, because countries will not be able to have faith in our word when we're negotiating trade deals."

Members of the president's cabinet are also speaking out. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson says that in trying economic times, the United States should embrace agreements that boost trade.

"These are tough times and the brightest spot by far is trade," said Paulson. "I can't recall a time when trade has played such an important role in our economic growth and in creating jobs for Americans."

President George Bush called Congressional leaders to the White House Wednesday to discuss the Colombian free trade agreement and other issues. When the speaker emerged from the meeting, there were no signs of progress.

French foreign minister to visit Colombia for Ms. Betancourt
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner is expected to soon travel to Colombia in a renewed effort to gain the release of French-Colombian hostage Ingrid Betancourt.

Kouchner said Wednesday France will not abandon efforts to free Ms. Betancourt.

She has been held by the Fuerza Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia for more than six years. The group refused to allow a French medical team to meet with her this week.

Kouchner said Tuesday the rebels' refusal was a serious political error as well as a humanitarian tragedy. He said France is withdrawing the team.

The Fuerza Armadas said Tuesday that the French mission
was not appropriate and called on the government of Colombian President Álvaro Uribe to authorize a demilitarized zone for talks to swap imprisoned rebels for hostages. The president rejected that request.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has made Ms. Betancourt's release a foreign policy priority. She was kidnapped in February 2002 while campaigning for the Colombian presidency. Concerns about Ms. Betancourt's health grew following the release of a video in which she appeared gaunt and depressed.

Ms. Betancourt is one of at least 700 hostages being held by the Fuerza Armadas in secret jungle camps. Three Americans are among the captives.

The United States, European Union and Colombia have designated the Fuerza Armadas as a terrorist organization.

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San José, Costa Rica Thursday, April 10, 2007, Vol. 8, No. 71

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This is a brief users guide to A.M. Costa Rica.

Old pages

Each day someone complains via e-mail that the newspages are from yesterday or the day before. A.M. Costa Rica staffers check every page and every link when the newspaper is made available at 2 a.m. each weekday.

So the problem is with the browser in each reader's computer. Particularly when the connection with the  server is slow, a computer will look to the latest page in its internal memory and serve up that page.

Readers should refresh the page and, if necessary, dump the cache of their computer, if this problem persists. Readers in Costa Rica have this problem frequently because the local Internet provider has continual problems.


The A.M. Costa Rica search page has a list of all previous editions by date and a space to search for specific words and phrases. The search will return links to archived pages.


A typical edition will consist of a front page and four other newspages. Each of these pages can be reached by links near the top and bottom of the pages.


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American Airlines halts
flights for safety check

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The largest air carrier in the United States, American Airlines, canceled more than 1,000 flights Wednesday to conduct safety inspections of its aircraft.

The airline canceled nearly 500 flights Tuesday.

American Airlines is inspecting — and if necessary rewiring — its MD-80 aircraft to comply with government safety regulations. American uses that aircraft model on more than one-third of its flights.

The move comes after federal inspectors raised concerns about recent wiring inspections. The Federal Aviation Administration has been looking more closely at airline compliance of federal safety rules.

Several U.S. carriers have grounded aircraft as a result of the government audit, which was triggered by inspection and maintenance lapses at Southwest Airlines.

Venezuela will take over
its largest steel producer

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The Venezuelan government says it plans to nationalize the country's largest steelmaker, bringing one more key industry under state control in its drive toward a socialist economy.

President Hugo Chávez's government said Wednesday that it will take control of steelmaker Ternium Sidor to protect workers' rights. Venezuelan Vice President Ramon Carrizales said the action was taken after the breakdown of talks between the Argentine-controlled company and its union workers regarding salaries and benefits.

The decision follows Venezuela's announcement that it will take majority control of three foreign cement businesses operating there, but allow the current owners to keep a minority share.

Chávez said that takeover is needed to ensure businesses produce cement to build homes in Venezuela, which is facing a housing shortage.

The order affects Mexican-owned Cemex, which produces half of Venezuela's cement. Also affected are Switzerland's Holcim and France's Lafarge companies. Mexico has said the nationalization is inappropriate.

President Chavez has moved to increase state control over other industries as well. In recent months, he has reasserted national control over Venezuela's oil, electricity and telecommunications industries.

Venezuela is currently involved in a dispute with U.S.-based ExxonMobil over the nationalization of an oil project in which the company had a large financial stake.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, April 10, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 71

Saprissa chalks up expected victory over Houston Dynamo
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

As expected, the home advantage favored Deportivo Saprissa Wednesday night as the local team defeated the Houston Dynamo, 3-0.

The victory advanced Saprissa's chances in the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Champions' Cup race. The Dynamo was eliminated.
Saprissa will next face México's Pachuca April 23.

Dynamo supporters were quick to point out that the team was down four regular players including goalkeeper Pat Onstad. Saprissa scored its first goal in the first half and then added two more in the second half. Estadio Ricardo Saprissa in Tibás was sold out for the 8 p.m. game.

The Dynamo had several opportunities but failed to convert.

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