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(506) 2223-1327               Published Wednesday, April 14, 2010,  in Vol. 10, No. 72        E-mail us
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Immigration rule OK left for new government
By Manuel Avendaño Arce
and the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Regulations in support of the new immigration law will not be published until at least May 15, according to the current immigration director.

The regulations are vital for clearing up the finer points in the law, such as how tourists can extend their visa with the payment of $100.

Many tourists have had problems renewing visas without leaving the country. Many ended up traveling elsewhere and then returning to Costa Rica. That's because the procedures for renewal are not clear and not even workers in the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería know what to do.

The new law clearly says that the foreign holder of a tourist visa can renew it without leaving the country by visiting an immigration office, by showing proof of financial stability and by paying $100. Implementing the policy would be a relief to the legion of perpetual North American tourists in Costa Rica who have been making foreign runs for visa renewal every 90 days.

The immigration director, Mario Zamora, said that to make the procedures clearer the regulations are necessary.  Zamora said March 1 that the regulations would be ready for publication in the La Gaceta government newspaper in 15 days. Now, he said, approval of the regulations will be left to whoever takes over his job in immigration.

He is being promoted in the Laura Chinchilla government to vice minister of Gobernación, which supervises immigration.

Delays in publishing regulations are not new. The previous immigration law that expired March 1 was in force for almost four years without regulations being established.
One situation that the regulations will clarify is the number of times a perpetual tourist can renew a visa for $100. When the law took effect Zamora told a reporter that tourists will be able to stay in Costa Rica for a full year without having to leave the country. Instead, they will be able to renew their tourist visa three times here for additional 90-day stays, he said. However, none of this is in the law.

Feb. 18 Zamora said that a tourist will not be able to go to the same country twice and that after two trips to renew a visa a tourist will have to stay out of Costa Rica for a minimum of 15 days. He later said that this information was incorrect.

"Due process will be established in the regulations, however, these will not be ready before the 15th of May," said Zamora. "This job will remain with the new director of immigration and the new minister of security when they are in power and are able to approve the regulations. Eight days after their approval the regulations will be published in La Gaceta." Ms. Chinchilla takes office May 8.

No one would disclose informally what the regulations might say. However, Zamora is on record saying that the regulations will not be extensive because the new law is so specific.

And what about the tourist visa holders who come to immigration seeking the $100 renewal?

Zamora said that the agency has opened a special window on the second floor to handle these problems. When necessary, foreigners can go directly to the legal department for information in regards to the process, he added.

Some problems developed because persons with expired visas came to the agency seeking a renewal, Zamora said. Expired visas cannot be renewed that way, he said, and the individuals would have to leave the country, he added.


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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, April 14, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 72

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Our readers' opinions
Few sources link rage
with use of marijuana

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Tuesday's front page story on the student run-in at Universidad de Costa Rica made the claim that ". . . Some students were fueling their rage with marijuana."

As a health professional with 35 years experience in substance use treatment and research, I am surprised by this claim. I checked the Library of Medicine's archives just to refresh my memory on this subject, and confirmed that there is at best a tenuous link between aggression and marijuana in the scientific literature, and that the few articles to discuss such a link were written, for the most part, decades ago, when little was known about the effects of marijuana.

Now, as to the incident itself, rage is far from the only feeling expressed at large gatherings, even when the original situation might result from anger. I suggest that many participants were there to "have a party." The fact that so few participants were arrested or injured enough to require medical treatment supports this.

I believe that your reporters were editorializing, and allowed a bias against marijuana to distort their view of the facts.

John French

Bemused by statement

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

As a long-time reader of A.M. Costa Rica and frequent visitor to your country, I was bemused to read in yesterdays article about the student protest that "Some students were fueling their rage with marijuana." Really???  I was not aware that marijuana "fueled rage."
Maybe your journalist should do some better research; either scientifically or personally.
Chris Kunkle
Patrick, Arkansas

EDITOR'S NOTE: The medical literature suggests that response to marijuana varies but can range to paranoia. Aggression is better associated with withdrawl by long-time smokers, according to many sources. In one case Monday, however, a lad was puffing away on marijuana then picked up a stick and smashed a car window.


Today's story . . . HERE!


Attack on university
authorized by officials

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I am deeply saddened to see this type of response from your company. I would like to state my feelings.

“Some students were fueling their rage with marijuana. A short time later they went to the traffic circle at Mall San Pedro and one called the . . . ”

This statement was wrong to include in the story. First, marijuana does not fuel rage. Second, you are accusing and labeling people without just facts. Accusing “some students” of illegal activity does not justify or give the right to what the police did as this statement intends to do.

Why was there not anything said about who organized this attack on the university by the police? Who let this get so far out of hand on the government side. Whoever was the one who authorized this attack should lose his job immediately.  This was a flagrant abuse of power. Might is not right!

I believe your writers, Manuel Avendaño Arce and Saray Ramírez Vindas of the A.M. Costa Rica staff should retract this statement and apologize to the students and staff of the university. Writers should not be judgmental or should your paper allow such attitudes to project any opinion.

Also, when one is defending their rights, as the students did, they should not be labeled as “rowdy” And, it was not only the students that were protesting it was the university staff and security. A sovereign institute was attacked and you only site the defenders as being wrong.

I must say I was very disappointed when I read this article.  It is obvious that I don’t write well or express my ideas clearly, but even I can see and say that this was a bias view.

Steven Acedo
Quepos

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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.

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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.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, April 14, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 72

Masked demonstrators block highway and throw firebombs
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Some 30 to 40 young men and women who may or may not have been students erected a blockade Tuesday on the Circunvalación at the law school entrance of the Universidad de Costa Rica in San Pedro.

The demonstrators were more violent than those who set up a blockade there Monday. Many of the young people were dressed in black and wore masks or bandanas across their faces. Some threw firebombs and rocks in the direction of police. Wood that was part of the blockade was set afire.

Although blocking a public right-of-way is a crime, police did not move in. The young people dispersed after more than five hours. Once again traffic was jammed all over San Pedro and much of eastern San José.

Some students not involved said they did not recognize those manning the blockade. Ostensibly the demonstrators were triggered by the confrontation between police and university students and employees Monday. Some of the university community objected when Fuerza Pública officers followed a bribery suspect who fled on campus. Five persons were arrested but released a short time later.
No arrests were made Tuesday.

The man who was chased by police, a traffic officer with the last names of  Gómez Garita, was freed by a judge after his arrest. The Judicial Investigating Organization had tried to trap the man by using marked money for a bribe exchange, but the money could not be found later. Agents said that the man confiscated a bus driver's operator's
license and offered to return it for 20,000 colons, about $39.

Police were not prepared for riot duty Monday, and none of them used nightsticks to control students or their professors. Although allegations were made against the police of brutality, those in the university community appeared to provoke them.

Police Tuesday were in full riot gear with shields.

The situation quickly is breaking down along political lines.

The left-wing Asociación Nacional de Empleados Públicos y Privados said in a prepared statement that the Judicial Investigating Organization and the security minister, Janina del Vecchio, should assume responsibility and apologize to the university for the actions of their subordinates. It said that legitimate police action does not justify violent aggression against young students, employees or professors.

The association also said that the aggression stems from a national climate of authoritarianism and intolerance by the brothers Arias Sánchez. That was a reference to President Óscar Arias Sánchez and his brother Rodrigo, the minister of the Presidencia.

Although the association claimed that the police action Monday represented a violation of university autonomy, the university administration acknowledged that the institution was not above the law but it criticized the provocation of police coming on campus. A formal university statement said that the action lacked coordination.


Speedy justice panel authorized for Limón province
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A quick justice tribunal will begin work in the Provincia de Limón Thursday, the Poder Judicial said Tuesday. The new court got its approval from the Corte Suprema de Justicia Monday.

The Tribunal de Flagrancia will be part of the Primer Circuito Judicial de la Zona Atlántica and will handle cases of crooks caught red-handed from all over the province.

Four judges have been designated to hear cases in the court. Like the original flagrancia court that has been operating for more than a year in San José the judges can sentence criminals immediately. These are criminals caught in the act or near where a crime has been committed with evidence that they were involved.

The court will be in session from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.
The decision got praise from Janina del Vecchio, the security minister. She said that a year ago the province of Limón was experiencing four murders a week. Her police officers, the Judicial Investigating Organization and prosecutors have managed to reduce the number of murders in Limón Centro to five in the last month, she said.

Many of the leading criminals are not in prison, she said.

Ms. del Vecchio said that the investment to increase security was 2.8 billion colons, some $5.4 million.

Limón joins the provinces of Heredia, Cartago, Alajuela and Puntarenas in having a flagrancia court. The Poder Judicial plans to extend the concept to Guanacaste.

The new court will be helpful to tourists who can see a crook who robbed them sentenced the same day.


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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, April 14, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 72

Plain, classical facade of the Escuela de República de Argentina gives little hint to the elaborate carpentry and metal work inside.
Argentina school
Centro de Investigación y Conservación del Patrimonio Cultural photo


Heredia Centro's cultural center to be inaugurated tonight

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The 115-year-old Escuela República de Argentina becomes the Centro Cultural Herediano Omar Dengo this evening with an official inauguration of the restored 19th century structure.

The building is in downtown Heredia between Avenida Central and Calle 2.

The structure has elaborate fittings typical of the day. The structure will be used exclusively for cultural activities. The building contains 1,800 square meters, nearly 20,000 square feet as well as a 500-square-meter patio, which has been roofed and air conditioned.

Sandra Quirós said that 700 million colons were spent on restoration, about $1.4 million. She is director of the  Centro de Investigación y Conservación del Patrimonio
Cultural, which is part of the Ministerio de Cultura, Juventud y Deportes. Some of the money came from the Centro Patrimonio, some from the Municipalidad de Heredia and some from the Ministerio de Educación Pública.

The building was taken out of service as a school in 1981 and became an educational administrative building.  Between 1915 and 1938, the site served as a practice teaching institution for what then was the Escuela Normal de Costa Rica. Restoration started in 2000, and the structure was reinforced in 2005.

The neoclassical structure has been declared a national heritage site, in part because it was the first building in Heredia to be built specifically as a school.

Coincidentally the former Escuela Normal is the Liceo de Heredia, which also is a heritage structure.



Foreign investment fair promoting country begins today

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The country will be seeking foreign investment with Costa Rica Investment World, a fair that starts today for a two-day run.

The country's trade promotional agency will be presenting representatives from multinationals that chose Costa Rica over the last 20 years to explain the benefits to those from companies that might be considering relocating. Booths were being set up to display the progress of each company.

The trade promotion agency says Costa Rica's democracy, its peace, its consciousness of nature and its passionately
committed people are among the reasons firms should think about locating here.

The promotional agency, Promotora del Comercio Exterior de Costa Rica, known as PROCOMER, has high hopes for the electronics sector, medical device manufacturers, various services like call centers, green technology, industrial and agricultural producers and research and development.

President Óscar Arias Sánchez will close the two-day trade fair Thursday evening. All events are at the Hotel Herradura west of the downtown. Business people from 20 nations are expected.


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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, April 14, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 72

Medical vacations in Costa Rica

Traffic law changes
get initial approval


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The legislature in the early evening Tuesday approved on first reading a bill that makes substantial changes in the new traffic law.

The measure, which must be approved a second time, eliminates the point system under which a motorist could lose a license for excessive violations. It also is believed to raise the level of drunk driving from .5 grams of alcohol per liter of blood to .75, the difference between three and four beers for the average male.

Of particularly interest to the thousands of motorists who were ticketed over Semana Santa, the measure also cuts by more than half the financial penalties in the new law.

Most of the changes in the new law have been discussed at length in the legislature. The executive branch, which sets the agenda during so-called special sessions, made this bill a priority. Some 14 lawmakers voted against the changes. Most appeared to oppose the increase in the alcohol limits.

The change also means that those caught driving drunk will not automatically go to jail. That will only happen in case of serious injury or major damage to property. As with all legislative actions, the exact content of the measure will not be clear until it is published in the La Gaceta government newspaper. The legislative staff is in charge of the editing

Fuel prices going up
based on strong dollar

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Gasoline prices are going up from 5.6 to 5.9 percent depending on the octane rating.

That was the word Tuesday from the price regulating agency that said the increase was based on higher world prices for petroleum and other economic indicators from Feb. 25 to March 11.  The formula also considers the devaluation of the colon, which was nearly 546 colons to the dollar March 11, the agency said.

Since then the colon had strengthened to 525 colons to purchase a dollar. However, the Authoridad Reguladora de Servicios Públicos always is behind the curve with its computations by a month.

Super gasoline will go from 583 colons ($1.15) to 628 colons ($1.22) per liter, an increase of 35 colons (nearly 7 U.S. cents).

Lower octane plus gasoline goes from 566 colons ($1.10) to 597 ($1.16) for an increase of 31 colons or 6 U.S. cents.

Diesel goes from 494 colons (96 cents) to 514 ($1), an increase of 20 colons or 4 U.S. cents.

The country has only one petroleum supplier, the Refinadora Costarricense de Petróleo.

Liquid petroleum gas has a decrease of 22 colons per liter. Many Costa Ricans use LP gas for cooking.

The pricing authority already is at work preparing the May prices. The new prices take effect when they are published in the La Gaceta government newspaper.



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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, April 14, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 72


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118 schools participating
in English pilot program

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Students in 118 schools will be learning English via computer in a pilot program to test various types of software.

The program includes the installation of 3,200 computers, including 400 laptops in the institutions. The pilot program is part of the Fundación Costa Rica Multilingüe, which President Óscar Arias Sánchez started a year ago.

Among the software being used is one called Cyberi@b that was created at the Universidad de Costa Rica.

Students who are participating in the program have been measured for their English skills and will be tested again in November at the end of the program. Help came from Texas A&M University and Sam Houston State. The schools are in Alajuela, Cartago and San José.

One aspect of the software approach is that teachers can learn English along with their students, Casa Presidencial said this was appropriate for smaller schools and one-teacher schools that still exist in rural areas.

Other brands of software are Imagine Learning, Dynet, Edusoft and Tell Me More.

The program is being supported by a range of public and private sources, including Banco Nacional and the Banco Centroamericano Integración Económica, plus Intel Corp.

At the launch of the program Tuesday night, Arias said the results of the program will be seen in 10 to 15 years, He envisioned persons in a rural area selling products via Facebook to English speakers, thanks to the acquired language skills.

Although Costa Rica has many fluent English speakers, there is a shortage of English-speaking teachers, and few teachers of English have a native speaker fluency and accent.


Local vote set for Dec. 5

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The elections are not over yet. Costa Ricans still have to elect a number of local leaders.

The Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones has issued a long list of dates that candidates must follow.

The election is Dec. 5, and the openings are for municipal mayors, deputy mayors, members of the municipal council and others.



Latin American news feeds are dissbled on archived pages.



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