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(506) 2223-1327                       Published Monday, April 16, 2012, in Vol. 12, No. 75                            Email us
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Police, volunteers pressure women to fill out survey
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Combined police units swept the downtown sections of San José Saturday night and entered a number of nightspots, said the security ministry.

Among the places taken over by law officers were the Hotel Del Rey and its associated bar and dance club, the Key Largo.

An unusual aspect of the three-hour operation there was that law officers were accompanied by volunteers from the Fundación Rahab, who were distinctive in their pink blouses covered by what appears to be body armor.

Also unusual is that law officers sealed off the exits to the Del Rey and Key Largo and then required any woman there to fill out a form that sought detailed personal information. Then most of the women were interviewed separately by female police officers who went over the information in the questionnaire. Even female bartenders were required to do so, said an expat witness.

A spokesperson for the ministry did not have specific details on the effort at the Del Rey but did report that police officers Saturday and early Sunday were able to detain a man sought for aggravated robbery and 27 persons, mostly women, who could not produce paperwork showing that they are in Costa Rica legally. The persons with immigration problems were not detained but given, instead, orders to report to the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería. A witness said immigration agents were involved at both places.

Most of the women being questioned by police appeared to be Costa Rican, said a witness.

The police effort was in the San José districts of Hospital, named after Hospital San Juan de Dios, and Catedral, in the vicinity of the Catedral Metropolitana, said the spokesperson.

The spokesperson did not have a list.

There did not appear to be any arrests at either the Del Rey on Avenida Primera at Calle 9, or the Key Largo a half a block to the west. The ministry only provided details on the police operation after a reporter made an inquiry.

Some who were in either the Key Largo or the Del Rey objected to being detained. Police finished their work in the Del Rey at 12:30 a.m. and at the Key Largo at 1:30 a.m. Men were required to show identification but were not required to fill out a questionnaire, a witness said.

The police operation comes in advance of the U.S. State Department human trafficking report. That comes out in June. The Fundación Rahab receives significant grants from the United States to rehabilitate former prostitutes. The United States has been critical in the past of Costa Rica's efforts against human trafficking.

Del Rey visit
Policeman discusses the situation with customers at the Del Rey in this snippet from an undercover video.

Involved in the operation was the Grupo de Apoyo Operacional, the tactical squad of the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública. Also there, according to the spokesperson, were agents of the Judicial Investigating Organization.

The Del Rey is well known as a bar where women and men meet. Less well known is that a few male prostitutes have been seen in the Del Rey. However, the first floor of the hotel also contains a number of slot machines, gaming tables, a poker room, and an automatic roulette table, as well as bars. One expat who was there Saturday night said he was gambling and hardly noticed any other activity.

The Key Largo is well-known as a dance location. Saturday there was a live band in one room and a DJ with recorded music in another.

The Fuerza Pública periodically conducts sweeps downtown and sometimes targets the Del Rey exclusively. They seldom find anything amiss because adult prostitution is not prosecuted in Costa Rica and the hotel management is rigorous in checking identifications and ages of those who enter.

An expat who was trapped in the Del Rey Saturday night uploaded a video to YouTube. It is HERE!

According to the Fundación Rahab, prostitution is an expression of masculine power and is a relationship that is characterized by the domination and control on the part of who pays (the client) to use the body of a person (the woman who sells the service).

The foundation rejects the concept that prostitution here is a legitimate business, despite many persons who prostitute themselves willingly.

The foundation cites societal pressures and says that this type of work is against the fundamental human rights of a person to live without violence or mistreatment.

The foundation also said that prostitution is not recognized as a form of work by the International Labor Organization. The foundation's views are outlined on its Web site.

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Our reader's opinion
Cahuita-Puerto Viejo case
is all about big business

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

The guest opinion piece about government seizure of coastal land in Cahuita and Puerto Viejo is misinformed.  The goal of the authorities in transacting this condemnation, demolition and seizure has nothing to do with saving wetlands. It is about fattening the coffers of the rich, both in and out of government, while trampling on the rights of the Afro-Caribbeanos and aboriginal natives and their business partners, foreign investors, renters, or clientele, and the progress they have already made to make their area more self-sustaining and a more of a destination tourist attraction.

The fattening of the coffers is about building a mega billion dollar marina with international investors, restaurants and hosteleries and has nothing to do with protecting the environment . . . except for preserving it for the rich and powerful, not the local citizens who have held title to the land with full rights!

Ms. Meeds would do better to look at how she would react if the government deemed her private property in the region as a government asset and divorced her from ownership — a piece of land she is currently trying to obtain title to in order to avoid this or a similar occurrence (both squatters or big government).  Tell Carol Meeds however high-minded and virtuous her concerns for some of her principles are, that she can't have it both ways!!!

In 2005 the government gave Cahuita and Puerto Viejo status as independent cities with self-determination regarding the usage of their coastal lands, something long-longed for in their quest for greater independence.  The majority of commerce (like a downtown center) in these regions is along the coast because the original inhabitants were fisherman, and built their homes and properties at the water's edge, where the population grew and spread out from.

Subsequent progress and growth enhanced the commercial value of these maritime zones, a benefit to locals and their families, whether they improved the structures and activities themselves, or leased or sold it out as progress occurred, piece by piece, to new buyers at an advantage for everyone.

Now the government has come along (based on the Sala IV's having rescinded the rights of these citizens to independent city status in its 2009 decision — with no one in the legislature standing up for these disenfranchised peoples in one of the poorest and possibly politically irrelevant cantons in all of Costa Rica) — the first time such a law was ruled unconstitutional and also specifically targeted (the canton and people mentioned above), all to the benefit to big promoters and the government itself, and no one (among the locals) was given a warning or consulted or allowed to wage a defense, because no one was invited to participate or give a voice in the process.

It is pure racial discrimination and political disenfranchisement, primarily launched against people of color, whether native aborigines or black Caribbean Costa Ricans who are not the wealthy and powerful, nor politically connected in the sense of how business has historically been done with Big Government.  This encroachment needs to be stopped.  The locals are not the criminals.  Big government is!!!  So Carol, best to re-think your battle and decide whose side you should really be on and fighting for!!!  These people are not turtles, they are people, and they are banding together for justice.
Jorge Smud, M.D.
Punta Uva, Talamanca

Caribbean side ignored
by government leaders

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Your guest writer Carol Meeds talks about applauding the government's actions in bulldozing places in Cahuita and Puerto Viejo that are in the maritime zone. She retired there from Florida and now wants to change everything to fit her idea of "ecological protection." However, does she have a clue as to how the Caribbean side of the country was treated until they were allowed to cross that line that kept them from the rest of the country until 1954?

Does she even realize that they have been mostly ignored and very unfunded by the government ? Most of these people and places have been there for decades, long before the government decided that their wealthy friends might want to build tourist marinas and megahotels there. Remember Mata Palo, when the government razed locals' houses near the beach so the developers could build their places? Maritime land, big bucks, big contributions. The places the government wants to bulldoze have been there for many many years, and have not expanded or encroached further. She should maybe expend some energy preventing the huge marina that has been proposed for the Cahuita area on the Caribbean.

Pat Elliot
Michigan City, Indiana,
and Cahuita visitor

President's unlicensed spouse
draws reader criticism

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

If there was ever any doubt in my mind as to the failure of the government in Costa Rica, this quote from an article in your paper on Friday certainly sums it up for me: "News media also reported that traffic police said Rico was driving with an expired license."
A government that preaches "do as I say, not as I do."  Sounds just like here in my other home, the U.S.  Shame on so many — and no consequences, just excuses. My 2 cents.

Hank Lam
Houston, Texas,
Puerto Viejo, Talamanca
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.
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Cocomar Rollover
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A.M. Costa Rica Third News Page
San José, Costa Rica, Monday, April 16, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 75
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Another meeting planned for today on nation's finances
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President Laura Chinchilla will be meeting today with more economics experts in an attempt to outline options for more tax money.

The president's massive tax plan was battered in a Sala IV appeal, and now lawmakers are starting again to consider the measure which calls for a 14 percent value-added tax and expansion of the tax to many more transactions.

Ms. Chinchilla met Thursday night with former finance ministers and others in an attempt to develop options.

The discussion today is expected to center on a proposed law to strengthen tax collecting and administrative measures that can be put in force to improve the government's income.

The central government had a budget in which nearly half the funds are borrowed. Ms. Chinchilla inherited substantial international debt from her predecessors. In addition, the central government workforce has ballooned in the last six years.
Ms. Chinchilla made no secret of the fact that she was betting fully on the tax plan. When asked several times, she and her ministers avowed that there was no Plan B in case the tax plan did not pass the legislature.

In order to expedite passage, the government party in the legislature and members of a coalition voted to put the measure on a so-called fast track that limited debate and discussion. A special committee was formed to consider the tax measure, and a deadline was established. The committee did not meet the deadline and continued meeting to produce a package that was sent to the full legislature. There it received initial approval.

However, the Sala IV constitutional court said that the committee members could not vote to extend the committee's life. A vote of the entire legislature was required, said the court in a unanimous decision.

Ms. Chinchilla was critical in her April 11 Battle of Rivas speech in Alajuela about minorities being able to frustrate the plans of the democratically elected majority. Of course, that is the whole point of a written constitution.

Flurry of moderate earthquakes sweep country during weekend
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A flurry of earthquakes took place in Costa Rica over the weekend with the latest being in the northern part of the country near Playas del Coco.

At 5:45 p.m. Sunday a 3.4 quake took place just 14 kilometers west of the beach town.

In all, there were nine quakes Saturday and Sunday, according to the Laboratorio de Ingeniería Sísmica and the Red
Sismológica Nacional at local universities.

A quake, estimated at 3.1 magnitude, took place on the Nicoya Peninsula just a minute after noon Sunday. There were others in Santa María de Dota, in the mountains east of Quepos  and even near Cartago at 12:18 p.m. Saturday. That one was of a 3.1 magnitude.

There also was a 3.2 magnitude quake that took place at 9:35 a.m. almost directly below La Garita and just 6.4 kilometers west northwest of Guácima.

Most bars and restaurants appear to be respecting tobacco law
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Anyone having trouble walking down the street in front of a bar or a large office building can blame the new anti-tobacco law.

The majority of San José restaurants and bars are following the law in posting signs prohibiting smoking and in trying to enforce the new edict. That means smokers are forced to congregate outside the establishments in the open air to get in a few drags.

Compliance is not universal. In at least one downtown   nightspot, there were plenty of smokers Saturday night. In one
 case, a smoker asked a bartender for a light, and she quickly ignited his cigarette without any comments about the new law.

That particular bar had plenty of ash trays distributed for customers.

The law prohibits smoking even in private offices. Smoking at bus stops even is forbidden.

There does not seem to be any enforcement, which is supposed to be the responsibility of the Fuerza Pública. For legal reasons, officers may be waiting until the central government publishes regulations on implementing the new law.

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A.M. Costa Rica's Fourth News page
San José, Costa Rica, Monday, April 16, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 75
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Volcán Turrialba as seen from the air Friday.

Turrialba volcano
Red Sismológica Nacional /Raúl Mora

Two mountains display their internal activity with eruptions
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two of the country's volcanoes became a bit rambunctious over the weekend.

Volcán Turrialba was putting out a column of steam Friday. Volcán Rincón de la Vieja erupted around 2 p.m. Saturday and spewed mud, ash and water out of the crater.

The national park around Turrialba remains under an alert and is closed to visitors. At Rincón de la Vieja only the trail to the volcano is closed, according to the Área de Conservación Guanacaste.

Rincón de la Vieja is in north central Costa Rica near Upala.
There had been previous activity reported there and the mountain is being watched.

Several photographers have flown over the volcanos during the weekend to obtain photos of the craters.

Volcán Turrialba is east of San José and had been putting out gas an ash for some time. Last Jan. 22, the volcano opened up a new vent in the crater. That change was noticed by scientists who were investigating Jan. 12 and Jan. 13 eruptions there.

Teams from the Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico de Costa Rica at the Universidad de Costa Rica and the Red Sismológica Nacional at Universidad Nacional are all watching the volcanoes.

Murder investigators have a busy weekend with multiple cases
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A machete, a knife and a tree limb are the apparent murder weapons of choice in three weekend killings.

In Pozos de Santa Ana police found the body of a man with the last name of Chinchilla in a field. He was 77.  The body was found in a canal about 10:30 a.m. Sunday. Judicial investigators said that the death was caused by blows with a piece of wood that was found at the scene.

Chinchilla owned the property and was a farmer.

In  La Escuadra de Golfito Saturday night judicial agents detained a 29-year-old man in the machete murder of a 42-year-old man with the last name of Jiménez, they said.

The death happened about 11 p.m. when the two men were engaged in a discussion. Agents said that the victim suffered machete wounds in the head and neck.

The suspect was detained shortly after the incident.
Three brothers were detained in Barrio Los Ángeles de Patarrá de Desamparados in relation to the murder of a 52-year-old man with the last name of Oviedo, said judicial agents. The three brothers, 17, 22 and 23 were involved in an argument with a man in the public street when the victim appeared complaining about the noise. He suffered a knife wound, agents said.

A guard died Saturday morning after he was shot four times by two would-be robbers at a delivery truck.  This took place in  León XIII in Tibás. The victim had the last name of Estrada and was 35 years old.

The body of a 48-year-old man turned up in a field Sunday morning in Bagaces. He was identified by the last name of Caballero. He also appeared to have been beaten to death with a piece of wood. The Fuerza Pública detained a suspect Sunday afternoon.

Also Sunday the body of a missing Canadian woman was found in Playas del Coco. She is believed to have the last name of Gutierrez. No cause of death has been determined. She had been reported missing.

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A.M. Costa Rica's
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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, April 16, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 75
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Medical vacations in Costa Rica

Ms. Chinchilla and Santos
Casa Presidencial photo
Ms. Chinchilla is flanked by Juan Manuel Santos, Colombia's president, and his wife.

President continues push
for U.N. drug consideration

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
and wire service reports

President Laura Chinchilla called for the United Nations and its Security Council to put drug trafficking in Central America on its agenda.

The president repeated this view when she spoke at the VI Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia. She said that drugs and drug use should be viewed from four perspectives: public health for drug users, prevention at the educational level, as a challenge for transparency and the integrity of the institution of nations and as a matter strongly supervised by the state.

When she arrived home Sunday night, the president said that the situation required profound revisions.

The president and her advisers are worried about the possible spread of violence in Costa Rica of the degree that can be found in the countries in northern Central America.

However, Mrs. Chinchilla has stopped short of promoting decriminalization of drugs, something that the United States strongly opposed. Otto Pérez Molina, the Guatemalan president, has called for this.

U.S. President Barack Obama had informal talks with the presidents of El Salvador and Guatemala on the topic of drugs and violence. A senior administration official said Obama also spoke with Peru's president, Ollanta Humala. The U.S. is to send a delegation to a drug policy meeting Peru is hosting in June.

President Obama also met with leaders from Caribbean nations. President Obama and U.S. officials have underscored Washington's support for the region under a $200 million Caribbean Basin Security Initiative.

The issue of Cuba's exclusion from the summits, which occur every three years, blocked a final consensus declaration.

In a news conference, Obama and Colombia's president, Juan Manuel Santos, sought to stress areas of agreement from a gathering whose formal focus was on expanding economic integration, trade and investment, and regional security. However, in the end, it was the issue of Cuba's exclusion from the summits that grabbed the top headline.

Though Cuba is not democratic, a majority of nations in the hemisphere support its participation in future summits. The U.S. and Canada oppose this, saying Cuba needs to undergo political and human rights reforms.

Earlier, Obama and Santos held formal talks, discussing Colombia's economic and security progress after years of battling narco-traffickers and leftist guerrillas.

They also announced that a U.S.-Colombia free trade agreement will become effective May 15. Initiated under the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush, it will greatly expand duty free treatment for U.S. manufactured and agricultural exports to Colombia.

Though it has business community support, the accord is still opposed by some U.S. labor unions, which say Colombia has still not done enough to eliminate violence against unionists and ensure investigation of past crimes.

U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, in Cartagena with the president, said Colombia has taken necessary steps to more robustly support its labor laws. "In particular, the rights of workers to organize and a number of important steps and procedures that have been in place to prosecute past cases of violence against union organizers as well as providing protection for them," he said.

Before leaving Cartagena, President Obama joined President Santos in a ceremony marking the Colombian government's program to return land to people displaced by paramilitary militias, Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia guerrillas and narcotraffickers.

Attendance by the first African-American U.S. president was seen as highly significant in Colombia, which has the second largest black population in South America after Brazil. An estimated 20 percent of Colombia's 45 million people have African ancestry.

Obama's attendance at the summit, and the economic and other issues on the agenda, were to some degree overshadowed by a scandal involving allegations of misconduct by U.S. Secret Service and military personnel involving prostitutes in Cartagena.

Asked about the controversy, President Obama said he expects a rigorous and thorough investigation. But he said he would be angry if the allegations are confirmed, adding he expects those representing the United States to conduct themselves with the "utmost dignity."

Tornados ravage Midwest
and five persons are killed

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

More than 100 tornados were reported overnight Sunday as a massive storm system ripped through the central United States, killing at least five people in Oklahoma.

Three children were among those killed and dozens of people were injured. Homes were reduced to rubble in parts of Oklahoma, Iowa and Kansas, and hundreds of thousands of residents were left without power.

The National Weather Service issued an advance warning for a high risk of severe weather Saturday, but the tornadoes still caught some communities by surprise.

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Hospital San Juan de Dios
needs blood donors

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Hospital San Juan de Dios needs O-positive and O-negative blood to keep up its reserves due to daily surgeries, said the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social.

The San José hospital will accept donations from individuals between 18 and 65 who weigh more than 50 kilos or about 110 pounds, the Caja said. Donations can be made at the hospital and also at the Banco Nacional de Sangre in Zapote.

Colombian expert provides
training to police officers

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A Colombian expert, Rolando Buitrago, has been providing training to tourism police and also judicial investigators. Some 30 persons attended, said the security ministry. This is his second visit, and his topic was police intelligence. The training ended Friday.

Two firemen suffer
injuries in truck mishap

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two firemen were injured when their truck overturned as they were headed to a bicycle event in the northern zone.

The two, Dennis Salazar and Alonso Castro were airlifted by the Servicio de Vigilancia Aérea of the security ministry to San José, said the Cuerpo de Bomberos. They were in Hospital México.

The event was the recreational bike ride along the new highway that borders the Río San Juan.

Motorist had 450 sticks
of dynamite in his vehicle

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Fuerza Pública officers said they surprised a motorist in Puntarenas, and the man was carrying 450 quarter sticks of dynamite. Officers said the man tried to evade a control point on the highway. That raised the suspicion of officers, and after motorcycle patrolmen stopped the car, an intensive search began, they said.

There was no reason given as to why someone would be carrying that amount of explosives.

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