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(506) 2223-1327                        Published Tuesday, April 24, 2012, in Vol. 12, No. 81                            Email us
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High flying

The group UNA Danza Joven from the Universidad Nacional in Heredia will be among the 11 groups that will celebrate the International day of Dance Sunday.

Our story is
Ministerio de Cultura y Juventud photo

Criminals seems to have taken a liking to the suburbs
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Flooding downtown San José with Fuerza Pública officers appears to have done exactly what officials hoped. There is a renewed sense of security in the center city.

Store operators, parking attendants and others are quick to say that there are few robberies and fewer suspicious persons hanging around the downtown this year when compared to last. They credit the police presence and flagrancy tribunals that can cut through the red tape and put a crook in jail in just a few hours.

The turn for the better even has been praised in daily newspaper editorials.

However, a look at police activities and contact with informal sources shows that many of the downtown crooks are now plying their trade in the suburbs.

A 17 year old youth walking home with three friends Saturday about 10:30 p.m. was confronted by three robbers. The youth resisted and suffered a fatal bullet wound. The killing took place in San Francisco de Coronado.

Also in Coronado, the Judicial Investigating Organization reported a home invasion Friday night. No one was injured then.

Two women were confronted with a motorcycle robber during the early afternoon Monday immediately behind the Fuerza Pública headquarters in Moravia. Their screams drove off the crook, but they expressed surprise that such an incident should happen in Moravia, north of San José.

Police statistics may show a decline in crime, but statistics in Costa Rica are a little shaky. For example the two women who screamed down a robber Monday said they called police but no one came.

Fear is another reason crimes are not reported. A San Francisco de Dos Ríos woman steadfastly will not report the sacking of her home even though she lost everything right down to the food in the pantry. She fears revenge.

Judicial agents are trying to investigate kidnappings in Alajuela, but the victims will not cooperate. What began as a home invasion April 15 turned into the
double kidnaping of a mother and child when crooks were not satisfied with the loot they found in the home. The pair were held for several days, and agents think that a ransom was paid, but they are not sure.

San Pedro, just east of San Jose's downtown is seeing more than its share of home invasions and store robberies in recent weeks. Armed men raided a computer store there at mid-afternoon Saturday and then stuck up an adjacent bookstore.

Several home invasions in San Pedro and also in Los Yoses have made the news in recent months.

Friday night there was a home invasion in Guadalupe, also north of San José.

That there are more crooks in the suburbs does not mean that traditional trouble spots are seeing less crime. Shootings are a regular event in León XIII, Hatillo, La Uruca and Pavas.

Several months ago, Central Valley crooks appeared to be taking advantage of better highways to prey on the central Pacific and quiet towns like San Ramón where not every home has bars on the windows and doors. In fact San Ramón was a battle ground where drug gangs fought for dominance. A man died there over the weekend in what is presumed to be a drug-generated murder.

Now it appears that Central Valley crooks prefer short trips to the suburbs instead of longer ones to the beach towns or places like San Ramón. They are less vulnerable because they are not using heavily patrolled highways. And they know the area better. Plus the preferred vehicle, a motorcycle, is better for quick, short trips instead of day-long excursions.

This apparent change in criminal behavior does not mean that local gangs do not terrorize neighborhoods. Agents have tried to jail members of several gangs since the beginning of the year, but because many of the criminals are juveniles most are free.

Coupled with changes in criminal activity, there also seems to be a reluctance of police officers to discuss local crimes with reporters.

That seems to be true in Escazú and Santa Ana where home invasions take place but frequently do not make the police reports available to reporters.

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Control of legislature
hinges on new coalition

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Control of the Asamblea Legislativa appears to be headed for the hands of a small political party that has just four members. It is the Partido Accesibilidad Sin Exclusión. 

Rita Chaves, one of the four, said Monday afternoon that she and her fellow party members were pulling out of an alliance that has run the legislature for the last year. Instead, her party will vote with the Partido Liberación Nacional as long as she and her fellow party members are elected to the top offices in the legislature.

There was no confirmation. But with the four lawmakers of  Partido Accesibilidad Sin Exclusión and one independent lawmaker, Carlos Avendaño Calvo of Partido Restauración Nacional, the coalition will have 29 votes, 50.8 percent of the legislators.

Liberación is the party of President Laura Chinchilla. A coalition of opposition parties wrested control of the legislature last May 1 to install a member of the Partido Acción Ciudadana as president.

The Asamblea Legislativa reorganizes each May 1. This is the third of the four-year term of the current legislature.

The party that controls the legislature can decide on agenda items and also enjoys better offices.

The leadership is not fixed until the actual vote is taken. With independent Avendaño being the swing vote, it is possible that he might be able to negotiate a deal with the parties that control the legislature now.

The new coalition also might be an advantage to the Chinchilla administration as it tries to pass a revised tax plan.

There was no mention of why Accesibilidad Sin Exclusión made  such an abrupt change. However, over the weekend, Víctor Danilo Cubero Corrales of Movimiento Libertario expressed his appreciation of cockfighting. That drew strong criticism from the animal rights sector. Cubero was the apparent candidate of the opposition coalition. When he dropped out Sunday night, there was no obvious successor.

Costa Rican exports show
substantial gain over 2011

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica's exports increased in the first three months of the year, according to data released Monday.

Total exports were about $2.9 billion, some $403 million higher than the same period in 2011, said the Promotora del Comercio Exterior de Costa Rica.

The promotional organization said the increase was 16.1 percent.

The promotional organization said that exports from the so-called free zones were responsible for much of the increase. Exports in the first three months of 2012 were $1.5 billion compared to the $1.23 billion in 2011, the organization said.

The manufacturing sector, including Intel Corp. chips, showed an increase of 19 percent, said the data.

Some 41.9 percent of the exports went to North America and 18.8 percent went to Europe.

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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.

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Al Andalus, the 20-year-old flamenco dance company, is a frequent performer at culture ministry events. The dancers will be there Sunday.

Flamenco dancers
Ministerio de Cultura y Juventud photos
11 groups will perform to mark
International Day of Dance

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Anyone who likes dance will love Sunday. The day is being celebrated as the International Day of Dance in Costa Rica.

Some 11 groups will perform at the Teatro de la Danza at the Centro Nacional de Cultura in San José. The event begins at 6 p.m., and there is an admission.

The day is designated as such by the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. The presentations Sunday range from the flamenco to tap, modern and even Irish step dancing. The organizer is the Asociación Nacional de Trabajadores de la Danza. Most of the performers are professionals.

Among the groups participating are Al Andalus, the well-known flamenco troupe and Luna del Desierto, which offers Egyptian dance.

A solo performer will be Zohara, who presents what is called contemporary Oriental.

As part of the dance presentations, what is being called a Danzatón will be presented May 11, 12 and 13. The dancers will be professional-semi-professional and youngsters on the final night.

The Centro Nacional de Cultura is also the Ministerio de Cultura y Juventud. It is just east of Parque España and south of Avenida 7 in north San José. The compound is the antigua Fábrica Nacional de Licores or old liquor factory.

The International Day of Dance began in 1982, and the date is that of the birth of the creator of modern ballet, Jean-Georges Noverre, who died in 1810.

Oriental cancer Zohara

Procedure being set up to deport foreigners who are convicted
By Shahrazad Encinias Vela
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería completed a study that it says will allow a better support system for harsher deportation measures.

The new digital database for the foreign prison population in  Costa Rica has a profile for each inmate. This is to serve all security agencies in the country as a way to share the vital prisoner information. It is not open to the public and only available to the security agencies of the country.

According to Mario Zamora Cordero, minister of security, this new system will show the immigration status of the foreigner. After serving time, the foreign convict will be deported back to his or her country. He said this new way will serve for better security in the country.

This new technology is a necessary tool for a more intelligent system to keep the agencies up to speed, said Zamora. He said the new system will make imprisoned immigrant information easily accessible to all agencies so there will be no confusion to the next step with the prisoner.

“This will generate a state of control where they did not have it before,” Zamora said.
Before the study, officials had no accounting of the immigrant prison population, but now they will have such an advantage, he said. Instead of an immigrant being set loose into the community after serving his or her time, the ex-convict will now be sent on a one-way ticket back to his or her homeland. Immigrants who commit a crime and do time will be deported as soon as their time in jail has been completed, Zamora said

He made this announcement during a press conference Monday morning at the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería in La Uruca. Freddy Montero,the deputy director of immigration, presented a report analyzing the population of foreigners in the penal system.

According to the study, in 2011 just 7 percent of the foreign prison population was female.

Some 16 percent of all Costa Rican prisoners are foreign nationals, according to the study.

Out of the entire prison population 10.4  percent are from Nicaragua. This makes them the largest group of immigrants in the penal system. Then Colombians follow with a 1.9 percent, Panama and the United States tie with less than 1 percent each.

Nicaraguans are 70 percent of the immigrants in Costa Rica, according to Montero.

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Folk dancers braved chilly weather to join the parade that consisted mostly of public school children.

Dancers in Cartago
Ministerio de Educación Pública photo

Cooperatives being celebrated in many locations this week
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The concept of cooperatives was the center of a celebration in chilly weather in Cartago Monday. There was a band and traditional dancers.

This year is the International year of Cooperatives, according to the U.N. General Assembly. The organization said that cooperatives contribute to socio-economic development. The activities Monday were at the Plaza de la Independencia in
Cartago, but there will be other events during the week throughout the country.

Today in San Carlos the Unión Nacional de Cooperativas del Norte has a similar event. Wednesday there will be a parade in Santa Cruz sponsored by Coopeguanacaste. Friday the celebration will be in Pérez Zeledón at the Liceo de Sinaí.

In the education system alone there are more than 200 cooperatives. Some manage small stores.

New chamber will try to promote more mushroom cultivation
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The country imports 45 tons of mushrooms every month, but the national production is only 3 tons a year. This is something that a new organization of growers is trying to change.

The organization, the Cámara Costarricense de Productores y Exportadores de Hongos, is in the process of developing training programs for those who might be interested in growing mushrooms. So far just 20 families are commercial mushroom producers.

The country appears to be well situated as a mushroom-growing region. Growers are using saw dust, coffee waste and other discarded agricultural materials to grow mushrooms.

Lida Soto Solano is president of the Asociación de Mujeres Agrícolas de Cartago, an organization that has been growing mushrooms for 15 years. She said there are many openings from the most rudimentary effort to the most modern with computer controlled facilities.

She and her organization produce gourmet oyster mushrooms, a delicacy. She said that she fries them for two minutes with butter and garlic and eats them with crackers.

The oyster mushroom also has been credited with lowering cholesterol.

The Universidad de Costa Rica gave a start to mushroom production in 1997. The university still is involved. The Ministerio de Agricultura y Ganadería also is promoting the effort to increase production.
oyster mushrooms
Ministerio de Agricultura y Ganadería photo
Oyster mushrooms are well-known for growing on the side of mature trees. But they can be grown anywhere with the right type of material, such as agricultural waste.

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U.S. Supreme Court to hear
immigration case Wednesday

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The political and legal battle over how to deal with illegal immigration in the United States will be front and center before the Supreme Court Wednesday.  The high court will consider whether an Arizona state law aimed at cracking down on illegal immigrants conflicts with the federal government’s role in policing national borders.

SB 1070 requires police to check the immigration status of people they detain and who they suspect may be in the country illegally.  The law also makes it a crime for illegal immigrants to work in the state.

The Obama administration has blocked several key provisions of the Arizona law in lower federal courts, asserting the responsibility to police the national borders rests with the federal government and Congress, not with individual states.

Opponents of the law in Arizona also argue the statute has had a polarizing effect in the state. 

“I am a fourth generation Mexican-American from Arizona, and I have never seen such division in our state," said Petra Falcon, a member of an activist group known as Promise Arizona, "and also the disbelief, anger and fear when SB 1070 was signed.”

Opponents also include leading Hispanic-American organizations like the National Council of La Raza.  Clarissa Martinez is director of immigration and national campaigns for the group.

“The United States is more than a country.  For many of us immigrants coming from other countries, it is an ideal and part of an aspiration," Martinez explained. "America has a proud immigration legacy, but it is not one without a tortured past.”

Supporters of the Arizona law say the state was forced to act because the federal government failed to secure the border during a period of several years, resulting in about 400,000 illegal immigrants now living in the state.

Nationwide, it is estimated 11-million illegal immigrants reside in the United States.

The Arizona law has many supporters around the country, including William Gheen in North Carolina, who heads a group called Americans for Legal Immigration Political Action Committee.

“Illegal immigration displaces and replaces American workers, students, people using health-care facilities," noted Gheen. "It results in the theft of hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars and some Americans lose their very lives because our borders go unenforced and our immigration laws go unenforced.”

Several other states have enacted laws similar to the one in Arizona and will be closely watching the Supreme Court case.

Gheen says a high court decision to uphold the law would give states more leeway in cracking down on illegal immigration.

“We stand ready now for the Supreme Court to hopefully rule that states can enforce the existing immigration laws of the country when the federal government fails to do so and we will move immediately to try to pass that law in as many states as possible as rapidly as possible,” Gheen said.

A Supreme Court ruling is expected by the end of June.  Whatever the court decides could have an impact on this year’s presidential and congressional elections.  How to deal with illegal immigration remains a major political issue and affects the ability of both Democratic and Republican candidates to appeal to Hispanic voters.

Hispanics are the largest growing bloc of voters and public opinion polls show they are overwhelmingly against the Arizona law.

New report urges legalizing
cocaine and other drugs

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The latest figures from the United Nations show that both the production and consumption of cocaine and other illicit drugs are increasing.  That’s despite the so-called war on drugs being fought in an increasing number of countries around the world. A new two-year investigation claims the current approach is failing in both consuming and producing countries.

More than 50,000 people have died in drug violence across Mexico since the government sent the army to fight the drug cartels in December 2006.

In a new report, the International Institute for Strategic Studies argues the West is losing the war on drugs. Nigel Inkster, a former deputy chief of Britain’s intelligence agency MI6, is the author.

“Mexico is now experiencing two wars, one between the government and drugs traffickers, and the other between drugs trafficking groups," said Inkster. "Afghanistan is another example where what we’ve seen is the narcotics trade not causing conflict, because conflict was there long before, but acting as a perpetuator of conflict.”

NATO and Afghan forces have been battling the production of opium used to make heroin at the same time as fighting insurgents.  Commanders say the two are often linked.

The U.N. estimates that 123,000 hectares of opium poppies were grown in Afghanistan in 2010, more than 60 percent of the global supply. Production in Burma soared by 20 percent from 2009 to 2010.

“You squeeze production in one region and it simply displaces elsewhere. Same thing is true of supply routes, you crack down on one supply route and alternatives are found,” said Inkster.

West Africa is now a key transit route for drugs en route from growers to consumers in Europe.

The latest U.N. figures show that cocaine use in Europe has doubled over the past decade. Globally, it’s estimated the total number of drug users has grown to 210 million. Inkster said drug use cannot be eradicated so it should be managed instead, like tobacco.

“Governments raise considerable revenues from the sales of tobacco, but over the past few years, consumption of tobacco has been nudged away from being something that is socially acceptable towards something that is increasingly not seen as acceptable,” said Inkster.

Inkster warns that more and more countries are being dragged into the global industry in illicit drugs with devastating consequences on both sides of the trade.

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Press group issues report
critical of Latin leaders

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The Inter American Press Association has concluded its half-yearly meeting, held in Cádiz, Spain, with ratification of its conclusions, in which it declared that: “The main problems facing the press in the Americas are crimes against journalists for the sole fact that they are performing their work under governments of democratic origin, but which are authoritarian and use state-controlled media to persecute and defame the independent press.”

The declaration also said:

”In Brazil, three journalists were murdered in cases where evidence indicates that they occurred because of their work, and the sluggishness of the justice system stimulates impunity, while in Haiti one radio reporter died for the same reason.

”But without doubt, Venezuela, Ecuador, Argentina, Bolivia, and Nicaragua face a pattern of common adversities at the hands of arbitrary and intolerant presidents who seek to silence the critical press: numerous government-controlled media carry out a systematic campaign against independent journalists; official advertising is used to award friendly media and punish unfriendly ones; the press is accused of being a destabilizer and coup organizer by the highest officials of national government; and leaders are merciless in their public discourse against those who raise a critical voice, identifying and belittling journalists by name.

”The problems of regulations and access to information are constant:

In Argentina the government denies approval of laws that would give transparency: one on access to public information and another to regulate official advertising violating a Supreme Court decision that establishes a reasonable provision.

”In Bolivia, President Evo Morales constantly threatens to regulate the press law to control the media strictly while repeated unsolved assaults occur.

”In Ecuador, Rafael Correa insists that information is a public service and, therefore, must be managed by the state, thus attempting to justify a communications law and electoral reform that include severe restrictions on editorial content. After Correa’s pardon of the conviction of leaders of El Universo, the future communications law is the greatest threat.  It authorizes discrimination against private media and sets up a communications council, composed primarily of members of the executive branch of government, to apply rules.

”In Venezuela, in addition to permanent harassment of independent journalists, the government continues to use the constitutional provision of truthful information to censor the media, either with immense fines against Globovisión for reporting on a jail mutiny or by restricting the publication of investigative reports. The government, like that of Ecuador and Argentina, maintains an immense network of government-supported media financed with public funding.

In Guatemala, a reform of the law on access to information seeks to restrict and classify military and diplomatic information, expanding the concept of threat to national security.

”In Nicaragua and Argentina, the governments maintain iron-fisted control of a large number of government media outlets, while punishing the critical media by withholding official advertising.

”The president of Honduras, Profirio Lobo, threatens to send a press law to congress in reprisal because he believes that many media defend private interests instead of dedicating themselves to the simple delivery of information.

In Colombia, attempts are being made to impose legal restrictions on media content in both the dissemination of electoral poll results, and in commercial and political advertising.

”In turn, the Inter American Press Association has asked the Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States not to accede to the request from Ecuador to restrict the work of monitoring and defending freedom of the press of the special rapporteur for freedom of expression, by preventing it from seeking funding outside the OAS or sharing a budget with other entities, and not permitting it to make country-by-country reports.

”Acts of aggression and situations of impunity toward the media and press people continue to be found. To the crimes committed in Brazil and Haiti are added the sparse efforts of the government of Honduras to resolve the 20 murders of journalists that have occurred over the past two years, without making available the funds necessary to solve them.

”In Cuba, before, during, and after the visit of Pope Benedict XVI, assaults, beatings, and detentions of dissidents have increased, as well as restrictions on the use of cell phones and the Internet. In 2012 there was an average of 600 arrests per month, and although the community of independent journalists and bloggers has become consolidated, the government continues its firm control of the Internet.

”In Mexico, the 29 assaults against journalists and the two attacks against media, brought about by organized crime and by corrupt officials, constitute the worst obstacle for the press.

”At the same time, lawsuits against those who disseminate information contrary to government interests remain in effect in Panama and Paraguay.”

Editor's Note; The parent firm of A.M. Costa Rica is a member of the Inter American Press Association.

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