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(506) 2223-1327      Published Wednesday, April 15, 2009,  in Vol. 9, No. 73     E-mail us
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This is a great week to get that driver's license
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

One of the real deals for expats is the ease of getting a Costa Rican driver's license.

Assuming that the expat already holds a valid, unexpired license from North America or Europe, the whole process should not take more than a few hours.

If the expat does not have a valid license, the nightmare is just beginning. An unlicensed expat would have to take weeks of classes, a written exam, hands-on training and a practical test. Not to mention shrugging off bribe requests along the way.

This week only, the Consejo de Seguridad Vial is maintaining extended hours at its main La Uruca location. The license issuing agency will be open from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. to make up for the time lost during the Semana Santa holidays. Normal closing time, starting again next week, is 4 p.m.

When the licensing bureau was in south San José, the facilities were rough but there was a bank for payments inside the facility. Now applicants have to make a bank visit as well as the usual medical visit.

Generally those who can walk into the individual private medical offices and generally make out the outlines of the eye chart are given an OK, a dictamen medico. The typical cost is 10,000 colons or about $17.75. Doctors with offices near the facility handle dozens of exams a day. Many speak English.

A new twist is a requirement that a medical applicant provide some evidence of blood type. Without some kind of document, about 5,000 colons in lab work is required. Some medical facilities have an internal lab. Accepted documentation would be a note from a blood bank or some other paper issued at the time of a donation.

The applicant would then go to Banco Nacional or Banco de Costa Rica to pay the license fee. In La Uruca there is a Banco Nacional just 200 feet east of the main entrance to the Consejo facility.

Some medical facilities are authorized to collect the fee, too, so one-stop payment is possible. Those getting a license for the first time pay 4,000 colons or about $7. That is for two years. A five-year renewal is 10,000 colons.

Expats might be able to shop around for a better price on the medical exam. Some physicians still maintain shop in the vicinity of the former licensing facility in south San José at Avenida 10 and Calle 7.

For a fee, some bilingual taxi operators and expat associations will provide a guide for the process.

The real test comes when the the expat enters the main gate of the Consejo complex. They may have been able to hoodwink the doctor down the street, but the licensing facility is a good 1,000 feet from the main entrance down a concrete sidewalk. Wear good shoes.

Expats getting their first Costa Rica license have
license applicants

to present their North American license to a Departamento de Licencias official. A guard at the door of the licensing facility is a helpful guide. The applicant needs a photocopy of the foreign license and a passport with a valid visa or appropriate immigration documents.

Although there are Consejo offices in all the provinces, the first expat license has to be issued in La Uruca where the foreign license can be verified.

A foreign license is only valid here for the 90 days of a tourist visa.

The actually licensing process is short. A half dozen workers in separate cubicals take down personal information and quickly send applicants to a waiting line for a photograph at five photo stations. The machines being used by the Consejo spit out a new license about every three minutes, so an applicant just hangs around the photo machine for a few minutes.

Parking is in short supply at the Consejo complex. There are employee spaces and plenty of room for cars confiscated from drivers who were caught drinking and driving. But visitors probably should arrive by taxi or be dropped off.

The usual collection of young men patrol the entry and offer help, but a wise visitor does not use their services.

There are several private medical locations devoted to providing licensing medical reports near the Consejo. Some announce their presence with giant banners.

Costa Rican Consejo employees do not confiscate the North American license of applicants, allowing successful applicants to have two.

Costa Ricans as young as 13 can have a license for light motorcycles. Farm youngsters can get a tractor license at 16. The normal age is 18 or unless the applicant is married.

Expats normally will get a B-1 license for passenger cars and light trucks. A motorcycle endorsement on the foreign license results in the same here. Without an endorsement, the applicant has to go through the classes and practical tests.

A stolen license can be renewed for 5,000 colons if the holder has reported the theft or robbery to the Judicial Investigating Organization.

Costa Ricans can renew their license at Banco de Costa Rica. Depending on the bank, expats may be able to obtain a renewal appointment.

Those 65 and older are only supposed to obtain a two-year renewal, but the Consejo does not seem to be enforcing that rule.

License requirements are HERE!

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Ph/Fax: 2221-9462, 8841-0007
Right group urges approval
of immigration rewrite

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The International Federation for Human Rights has called upon Costa Rica lawmakers to pass the proposed immigration reform measure, which the organization said it considers significantly better than the existing legislation.

The Paris-based organization said Tuesday that under the current law immigrants have no rights when detained in an immigration lockup and that this is a fundamental violation.

The Arias administration created the immigration revision because it considers the current law to be draconian in the way illegal immigrations are treated.

For most expats discussion of the proposed law centers on the amount of money pensionados and rentistas have to post to obtain legal residency here. But the immigration rewrite is much more.  The administration considers it a way to integrate foreigners here into the Costa Rican lifestyle.

Among other measures, foreigners, expats and others from Central American countries, will have to join the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social under the current version. Foreigners also will have to pay a certain amount a year.  The amount is minimal for most expats.

The measure has been reported out by a legislative committee and may be passed within the next two weeks. There is a backlog of bills awaiting discussion and a vote, so the immigration measure may not come up.

But the Federation for Human Rights said it understood that voting on the immigration measure was imminent.

Ex-governor considered
as jungle survivor here

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Just when you think you have heard everything, along comes the Huffington Post to report that former Illinois governor  Rod Blagojevich is negotiating with NBC to be dropped into a Costa Rican jungle for a reality television show.

The ex-governor is facing federal racketeering and fraud charges. The television network plans to drop 10 well-known individuals into the jungle and follow them as they make their way out.

The Huffington Post notes that Blagojevich is under court order not to leave the United States. Costa Rican immigration officials also might not admit someone who is named in a federal indictment.

Frequent drug suspect Alem
allowed to leave prison

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Frequent drug figure Ricardo Alem León got out of prison Tuesday after he posted a property in San Pablo de Heredia as security, according to the Poder Judicial. The bond is valued at 100 million colons, about $177,000. The property is said to be worth twice that.

The prosecutor in charge of the case argued that Alem was a flight risk and has decided to appeal the decision by the  Segundo Circuito de San José, said the Poder Judicial.

Alem had been jailed as preventative detention after a police raid in August. He left the San Sebastian prison about 1 p.m., the Poder Judicial said. He has been convicted twice of trafficking drugs.

A Colombian woman arrested at the same time as Alem vanished after she was given house arrest because she was pregnant.

Higher gas prices proposed
in monthly evaluation

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The price fixing authority is planning a 13-colon per liter increase in super and a 15-colon increase in plus as well as a 45-colon increase in diesel.

The increases would bring super gasoline to 497 per liter (88.2 U.S. cents), plus gasoline to 489 colons (86.8 cents) and diesel to 431 colons per liter (766.5 cents).

The proposed increase in diesel is about 11.6 percent.

The proposed prices will be subject to a public hearing.  The changes, made the second Friday of every month, are based on the devaluation of the colon and the world petroleum price.

The soonest the prices could go into effect is the middle of May, said the Authoridad Reguladora de Servicios Públicos. Once approved, the new prices have to be published.

Monteverde plans meeting
to discuss watch group

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Residents in Monteverde plan to meet Monday at 6 p.m. to discuss forming a neighborhood watch.

The meeting will be held at the Monteverde Friends School.

All residents of Monteverde are encouraged to attend, said organizers, adding that a message requesting further information may be left at 8866-3941.

The community of Monteverde is beginning to feel the wave of criminality that has hit other locations in Costa Rica. Meeting organizations said that there were two home break-ins Sunday and that police caught suspects.

In most cases, the persons doing the crimes are from out of town, organizers said.

Southern Command planning
joint exercise this month

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The U.S. Southern Command will kick off the 50th joint military exercise with Latin American forces Monday.

The exercise, UNITAS Gold, is the longest running, multi-national naval exercise in the world.
During this two-week exercise, the United States and Latin American countries will train together in realistic live-fire practices, undersea warfare, shipboard operations, maritime interdiction operations, air defense and surface warfare, amphibious operations, electronic warfare, and special warfare, said the Southern Command.  In all over 30 ships, two submarines and more than 50 aircraft are expected to participate.

Participants and observers invited include Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Germany, Mexico, Peru and Uruguay.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, April 15, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 73

Survey on exploitation of minors generates mixed results
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The results of another study on sexual exploitation of minors came out Tuesday, but the findings appear to be inconsistent.

The study, a public opinion survey in Costa Rica and in other Central American countries, Panamá and the Dominican Republic, was done by the International Labour Organization and released here through the Patronato Nacional de la Infancia, the child welfare organization.

The survey reported that 97.2 percent of Costa Ricans recognize sexual exploitation of children as a crime. But when asked what they would do if they knew of someone paying for sex with a minor, 12.9 percent said they would do nothing.

Some 21.1 percent said they would file a complaint about the minor, and 58.6 percent said they would file a complaint about the adult involved.

The organization said that the number of person who would
do nothing shows that the apathy of the population needs to be addressed.

The study was part of a program to eliminate child labor.

Although many respondents said that the state is responsible to stop the problem, only 8 percent placed the blame on pimps and exploiters, said a press release outlining the findings of the survey.

The survey involved about 1,200 persons with nearly 40 percent being in the greater metro area.

Like many sexual exploitation studies in Costa Rica, the researchers seem to accept as fact that a hidden underground offers children for sexual purposes. However, it appears that the place where most children are abused sexually is in the home and the prostitution of children is far more fragmented than the study suggests.

Just seven years ago then-president Miguel Ángel Rodríguez Echeverría made the headlines saying there was no sex exploitation of minors.

Business group urges legislative action to halt economic contractions
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An organization of business operators is calling on the legislature to pass a series of temporary laws to protect workers and keep them in their jobs.

The organization, the Unión de Costarricense de Cámaras y Asociaciones del Sector Empresarial Privado, said it was concerned by evidence that the Costa Rican economy is contracting.

The bill would require the executive branch to authorize the use of the temporary measures after three months of reductions in the monthly index of economic activity. The measures would not be a permanent change in the Código de Trabajo, which unions oppose.
The organization made the request on the day that President Óscar Arias Sánchez met with the Asociación Bancaria Costarricense, which presented ideas of its own.

Arias meets tomorrow with more than 150 banking and business officials in a so-called retreat where the topic will be maintaining productivity.

The association of chambers said that the monthly index of economic activity has contracted in each of the last five months, according to the Banco Central, and that this situation directly affects the productive sector.

The association of chambers first presented its emergency plan in February. The organization said the goal was to prevent what it called social damage.   

Internet message announces formation of anti-Ortega Nicaraguan rebel group
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Russian Bolsheviks were small in numbers but eventually came to rule all of Russia.

Today with the Internet anyone with a computer can be a rebel. That is why an Internet claim by a Nicaraguan rebel group is not causing a lot of alarm.

The group, the Comando de Justicia Nacional Rigoberto Lopez Perez, said it has taken up arms and set up a base in the mountains of Nicaragua to oppose the government of Daniel Ortega and his Sandinista followers.
The organization gets its name from the martyred Nicaraguan poet and politician who is a national hero in that country.

The organization seems the most upset at the agreement between Ortega and former president Arnoldo Aleman of the Partido Liberal Constitucionalista.

The pair has entered into a pact that has gotten Aleman off on corruption charges and given Ortega more power.

The rebel message said that it would do something soon to  demonstrate that it was serious.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, April 15, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 73

Obama has a chance at summit to improve Latin relations
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

President Barack Obama heads to Mexico Thursday and then continues on to Trinidad and Tobago for the fifth Summit of the Americas. Security concerns along the U.S.-Mexico border are expected to top Obama's discussions with Mexican President Felipe Calderón, while the summit provides an opportunity to reinvigorate America's hemispheric ties and forge a regional response to the global economic downturn. Obama could also face pressure to end almost 50 years of an often hostile relationship with Cuba. 

The bloody battles between Mexican security forces and drug cartels engulfing Mexico's states along the U.S. border show no sign of ending soon. And this drug-related violence is expected to be a focal point of discussions between Obama and Calderón in Mexico City.

"We have a problem of violence and organized crime that we have to tackle,"  Calderón said. "Both countries have to do this. Violence and crime are problems not only of Mexico, as President Obama has acknowledged. These are common problems we have to face together."

For his part, Obama has acknowledged that America's appetite for illegal narcotics fuels the drug trade, and that U.S.-made weapons are finding their way into traffickers' hands.

"We have got to reduce the demand for drugs," President Obama said. "We have got to do our part in reducing the flow of cash and guns south."

The two leaders are expected to discuss ways to strengthen security on both sides of the border, along with trade issues and immigration concerns. Many of the illegal immigrants in the United States are Mexicans. Obama has pledged to pursue comprehensive immigration reform but has yet to unveil details. 

From Mexico, Obama heads to Trinidad to attend the fifth Summit of the Americas — a gathering of all hemispheric leaders minus Cuba.
Confronting the global economic downturn and preventing it from boosting poverty rates are summit priorities, according to Tom Shannon, U.S. assistant secretary of State for Western Hemisphere affairs. "We have to protect the social gains that we have made in this hemisphere over the past decade, and ensure that the economic recovery of all the countries in the hemisphere does not come at the expense of the poorest and most vulnerable members of our society," he said.

But it is the issue of Cuba and the decades-old standoff with the U.S. that may generate news at the summit. 

In advance of the trip, Obama lifted U.S. restrictions on travel and remittances to Cuba that were imposed during the Bush administration, though he did not end the U.S. embargo.

Cuba's absence at these hemispheric gatherings also may be raised. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has decried Cuba's exclusion.

Jeffrey Davidow, Obama's special advisor for the summit, responds this way to the issue: "It continues to be a celebration of the profound change in this hemisphere as compared to many periods in the past when the hemisphere was marked by undemocratic governments. Cuba was not at the first summit. It remains an undemocratic state. The United States still hopes to see change in Cuba," he said.

The summit will take place as public opinion polls in Latin America show far higher approval ratings for Obama than those of his predecessor, George W. Bush. Brazilian President Luiz Inacio da Silva said "President Obama has a historic opportunity to improve the relationship with Latin America," he said.

Some in the Americas say that the United States turned its gaze away from hemispheric concerns after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, focusing instead on the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and against global terrorism. Observers say the upcoming four-day trip will give Obama a chance to change that perception.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, April 15, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 73

A.M. Costa Rica

users guide

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 week day.

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.


Five classified pages are updated daily. Employment listings are free, as are listings for accommodations wanted, articles for sale and articles wanted. The tourism page and the real estate sales and real estate rentals are updated daily.

Advertising information

A summary of advertising rates and sizes are available for display and classifieds.


A.M. Costa Rica makes its monthly statistics available to advertisers and readers. It is HERE! 

Contacting us

Both the main telephone number and the editor's e-mail address are listed on the front page near the date.

Visiting us

Directions to our office and other data, like bank account numbers are on the about us page.

U.S. illegals have more kids
who end up in poverty

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A U.S. study says illegal immigrants are having a growing number of children in the United States and are almost twice as likely as average to raise them in poverty.

The study released Tuesday by the Pew Hispanic Center says there are 11.9 million illegal immigrants living in the United States, about 76 percent of them Hispanic.

The survey found that a growing number of children of unauthorized immigrant parents — 73 percent — were born in the United States and are U.S. citizens.

The study found one-third of children born to unauthorized immigrants live in poverty, nearly double the poverty rate for children of U.S.-born parents (18 percent).

The study found that illegal immigrants are now more broadly spread around the country, settling in states where relatively few had lived two decades ago, such as Georgia, North Carolina and other southeastern states.

The survey says that while the number of illegal immigrants surged from 1990 to 2006, it has since stabilized.

The research found that of illegal immigrants living in the United States, 59 percent are from Mexico, 11 percent from Central America, and 7 percent from South America.  It says 11 percent of undocumented residents are from Asia, 4 percent from the Caribbean and less than 2 percent from the Middle East.

The Pew Hispanic Center is a non-partisan research organization that tracks the Latino population in the United States and its impact on the country.

Evo Morales gets his bill
and quits his hunger strike

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Bolivian President Evo Morales ended his five-day hunger strike Tuesday after Congress passed a new electoral law making it possible for him to seek re-election in December.

The new law approved early Tuesday calls for general elections to be held Dec. 6 and gives more seats in congress to minority native groups. Morales is the country's first native president.

Morales started the hunger strike Thursday after accusing the opposition-controlled Senate of holding up passage of the measure. 

Bolivians recently approved a new constitution that allows Morales to seek a second, five-year term in December elections.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, April 15, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 73

Latin American news digest
Chicago paper demonstrates
problems with newsprint

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

In March, the Chicago Sun Times newspaper filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. It was the latest in a series of newspaper bankruptcies and closures across the United States. The recent troubles come as new and emerging digital technologies are putting the future of newsprint, once revered and unassailable, in question.

In December, the City of Chicago was in the grip of two of the biggest news stories in its history. The U.S. senator from Illinois, Barack Obama, was on his way to the White House after an historic election. Then there was the news that Governor of Illinois Rod Blagojevich was under investigation for allegedly trying to sell Obama's vacated Senate seat.

But the Blagojevich arrest Dec. 8 was almost eclipsed by another story that struck at the heart of The Chicago Tribune and its three million readers. It was the  Chicago Tribune Company bankruptcy.

In the months following the Tribune Company's bankruptcy, newspapers in Seattle and Denver stopped the presses for good, either to go exclusively online or simply to go away. In March, the other major newspaper in Chicago, the Sun-Times, with one million readers daily, announced it was seeking bankruptcy protection.

Daily newspaper circulation in the U.S. is down more than 8 percent this decade, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulation. New consumers, meanwhile, are flocking to the Internet. In just one year in mid-decade, the number of visitors to newspaper Web sites increased 9 percent, according to the Newspaper Association of America.

Newspaper advertising revenue dropped last year about 17 percent, according to the Newspaper Association of America, as more media operations focus their efforts on online content.

Tribune Editor Gerry Kern says his company has found the answer. The Tribune along with the company's other TV, radio, and Internet news operations are breaking news stories on a new Web site launched in September called Chicago Breaking The site gets 35 million visitors a year and traffic reached a peak during the Blagojevich scandal.

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