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Published Wednesday, April 27, 2016, in Vol. 17, No. 82
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Signatures to be sought to double minimum salary
By Rommel Téllez
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Trade unions will be collecting signatures to allow voters to approve a new minimum wage of about $900 a month for unskilled workers. That is more than double the current legal minimum wage.

The Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones approved the request, which is the initial step toward a referendum.

The request was filed in October by Didier Leitón, a union leader in the banana industry. He sought the approval of bill No. 19.312 through popular vote. Frente Amplio lawmaker José María Villalta introduced that bill, which remains pending in the Asamblea Legislativa.

The initiative would force the Consejo Nacional de Salarios to approve wages that guarantee workers enough income for housing, bills, food, education and recreational activities for a family, according to a union description.

The new minimum wage would only apply to unskilled workers in the private sector and would go into effect over five years, so that companies will have time to adjust to the new rules, according to the proposal.

The election tribunal said that the referendum would be legal since it does not modify the Constitution or address any subject that is in the exclusive domain of legislators.

Union members and supporters must collect at least 160,000 signatures, which represents 5 percent of the latest electoral roll, once the resolution is published in the official daily La Gaceta.

The signatures must be collected in the following 10 months. If the objective is reached, the election tribunal has the obligation to organize the countrywide vote no later than six months before the next presidential elections, according to the electoral code.

“We've met with experts from TSE and members of the main unions in the country. We are designing the ballots and waiting for the resolution to be published in La Gaceta to fully start the campaign.” said Albino Vargas, president of the Asociación Nacional de Empleados Públicos y Privados, one of the biggest workers unions in the country.

The referendum would be the second in the history of Costa Rica. The first one took place in 2007 to determine whether Costa Rica would join the Central American Free Trade Agreement with U.S and Dominican Republic. Voters approved the agreement then.

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In Costa Rica, minimum salaries for private industry are updated every six months and they vary according to the job category and education level of workers. The daily income for a trabajador no calificado is a bit less than 10,000 colons a day and a bit more than $18, based on the current rate of exchange. The Spanish term means an unskilled worker.

The basic income right now is about $437 for a full month’s work, according to data from Ministerio de Trabajo. 

The job categories involved include gardeners, construction workers, dishwashers, supermarket demonstrators, pool cleaners and even disc jockeys. Each now has the same daily wage of  9,663.04 colons a day or $437 for a normal month with six-day weeks.

If the law were put into place today, the minimum salary would be close to $900, according to methodology proposed in the bill.

“Employers will say that it will force companies to go to cheaper countries,” said Vargas. “However, we believe it will strengthen the internal production and accelerate the economy by increasing the purchasing power of the people. Most important, it creates dignified labor relationships, which is the essence of this proposal.”

Employers also would face double the cost of social charges, such as monthly payments to the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social and worker insurance premiums. Both are based on salaries paid.

Current minimum wages that are lower than the proposed amount but higher than what is paid a trabajador no calificado today also most likely would increase.

Several U.S. states have raised the minimum wage including California where a successful ballot initiative sets a $15 hourly minimum wage by 2021. Labor advocates also are pushing for a federal minimum wage of that amount.

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Ministerio de Seguridad Pública photo
A police officer with a long gun stands guard over motorcycles after the Policía del Tránsito and the Fuerza Pública busted up drag racing in Cartago near the Basílica de Los Ángeles the Paraíso de Cartago highway. Officers confiscated 13 motorcycles Monday night, they said.

General strike is called a success

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Some 700,000 children did not have classes Tuesday, and more than 600 operations were postponed at public hospitals because teachers and health workers staged a general strike.

Thousands of marchers filled Avenida Segunda in the morning.

“We felt the strike was a total success,” said Martín Rodríguez.  “However we were very disappointed in the way our documents were received by the legislators. They had an attitude.” He is the spokesman for the health workers in the Unión Nacional de Empleados de la Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social.

“The objective of the march was to show our strength and that our voices can be heard. We do this because there is no real dialogue with the government. Whenever they call us to talk, they start by saying the bills we are against, will simply be approved.”

The unions object to bills that would change salaries and also one that would create a cooperative education system whereby students would work in their chosen field outside the classroom.

Rodríguez said there would be no march today in San José but that the strike will continue all around the country in hospitals, clinics and laboratories that belong to the Caja.

Also participating were the teachers in the Asociación Nacional de Educadores and the Bloque Unitario Sindical y Social Costarricense.

Government officials say that the strike was unnecessary.

The health employees union said that participation in the strike ranged from 75 to 80 percent at public hospitals around the country. There also were some marches in provincial capitals.

Tamarindo will be hunting mosquitoes

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Tamarindo business leaders and their employees will be off on a mosquito hunt starting at 7 a.m. Thursday in the Pacific coast town.

The community and nearby Playa Langosta are heavily dependent on the tourism trade, and any hint of the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes that carry dengue and the zika virus can have devastating economic impacts.

Students from the Universidad Nacional also will be participating, said a spokesman for the Cámara de Comercio y Turismo de Tamarindo, which is organizing the sweep.

Some 60 who may participate were briefed this week. Also there were residents of  Villarreal, Santa Rosa, Brasilito and La Garita.

The goal, of course, is to locate and eliminate any receptacle in which mosquitoes can grow to adulthood. That includes old tires, plastic bottles, glass containers and anything else that can hold water.

Those involved in the sweep are meeting Thursday morning at the soccer field in Tamarindo. Participating businesses include hotels Cala Luna, Esplendor, Barceló, Best Western Vista Villas and Capitán Suizo, Canopy Monkey Jungle and the restaurants Patagonia, Pangas and Witches Rock, said the spokesman.

Terminal access bids received

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rican highway officials received three bids from firms that are offering to construct an access road to the APM Terminal container handling facility in Moín.

The three bids are in the $60 to $71 million neighborhood. The firms propose to build the roadway in about 18 months, including design, said the Consejo Nacional de Vialidad and the Ministerio de Obras Públicas.

Bids were opened Friday.

Officials have to study the submissions before making a contract award. The container handling facility is being built on an artificial island in the harbor.

News from the Spanish-language press
Translated into English

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, April 27, 2016, Vol. 17, No. 82
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Ruta 32 widening contract wins OK from budget watchdog
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Contraloría General de la República, the nation’s budget watchdog, said Tuesday that it had approved a contract between Costa Rica and Chinese companies for the widening and other work on Ruta 32 from Moín to Río Frio. This is a $465.6 million job.

The agreement is with China Harbour Engineering Co. Ltd. and China Harbour Engineering Co. de Costa Rica, S.A. Chinese sources will put up $395 million and Costa Rica will put up the rest and acquire right-of-way.

The central government said that the approval by the Contraloría means that design work can begin.

This has been a controversial project in that the Chinese
government wanted the ruling text of the contract to be in Chinese and any disputes be litigated under Chinese law. There also is the problem that the Chinese firms estimated the cost even before design work was done.

The job involves widening the major highway to four lanes along with building bridges and overpasses. The job is supposed to take 42 months with design work taking eight of them.

Residents and those in business in the Limón area have pushed for the widening and some conducted demonstrations at the legislature seeking approval of the deal.

Plans call for a 26-kilometer bike path, 36 bridges, 13 overpasses, 23 pedestrian bridges and 176 bus turnouts. The highway gets 14,000 vehicles a day and it is the main route for exporters seeking to ship from the Limón ports.

Borrowing for electric trains gets first approval by lawmakers
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The national railway institute will be able to incur debt amounting to 40 percent of its worth under a bill passed on first reading Tuesday.

The bill, No. 18.252, is a step toward the construction of an electrified rail line in the Central Valley. The train locomotives now use diesel.

The central government said that the Instituto Costarricense de Ferrocarriles had a value of $1.02 billion. That number is based on an evaluation by the Universidad de Costa Rica that reported a figure about 15 times greater than book value, which is $69.4 million.

When the bill receives a second favorable vote and is signed by President Luis Guillermo Solís, the rail institute will be able to take on $408 million in debt. Casa Presidencial distributed a

worksheet showing the assets of the rail institute to justify the more than $1 billion figure.

The institute owns 1.2 million square meters of land and has rights to 12.9 million square meters of right-of-way, the worksheet said. The worksheet even listed a tunnel as an asset, as well as 125 bridges, buildings and vehicles. The university appears to have used a replacement-cost-new-less-depreciation method to assess value rather than market data. Bridges, after all, have little resale value except as scrap.

The bill also says that the central government cannot demand funds from the rail institute even if there is a surplus.

The rail institute also is encouraged to expand its service even to Guanacaste and Moín, according to a summary of the bill.

Government officials see an efficient electrical rail line as a way to reduce motor traffic and congestion.

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A.M. Costa Rica's Fourth News page
San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, April 27, 2016, Vol. 17, No. 82
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An A.M. Costa Rica editorial
Any measure to insure citizen access to government data needs teeth
By Jay Brodell
editor of A.M. Costa Rica

The U.S. Embassy is among the sponsors next week for a seminar with a title asking does Costa Rica need a law on access to information.

The session will feature Lynn Carrillo, a lawyer and former reporter in Florida who now works for NBCUniversal, and Fernando Cruz, a Corte Suprema magistrate. The court also is a sponsor as is the Instituto de Prensa y Libertad de Expresión.

The session comes at a time when even the court itself is keeping more and more information off-limits over alleged privacy concerns. The U.S. Embassy is well known for its broad interpretation of the U.S. Privacy Act that allows employees to work in secret. Even the names of U.S. citizens who died in Costa Rica are censored on the U.S. State Department Web site even though death extinguishes privacy concerns.

Article 30 of the Costa Rican Constitution says that a citizen has free access to government agencies to obtain information of public interest, except for state secrets.

Of course, like all governments, Costa Rica defines what is in the public interest. Spanish-language newspapers have been in court many times to obtain certain information for news stories, and so have lawmakers.  Government agencies fought hard to keep secret those fat salaries being paid to favored employees.

The U.S. Freedom of Information Act might be thought to be a solution. That was passed in 1966 as a way to formalize citizen access to government information. Agencies still can run information seekers around and frequently do.

The State Department, despite once being headed by a secretary 

who had a secret, personal email server in her home, generally
does not have critical information. The names of foreigners awarded a U.S. visa would be nice to see as would reasons for visa denials.

But the diplomatic corps is small potatoes compared to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Defense. The Nacional Security Administration and the Central Intelligence Agency also rank right up there as secrecy fiends.

Access to the doings of these agencies is critical, particularly now that the United States has adopted authoritarian trappings.

Much of what is known about these agencies and their shredding of the U.S. Constitution comes from whistleblowers like Edward Snowden.

Although the seminar here is designed to mark World Press Freedom Day, access to information is the right of all humans and not a special benefit for the press. In fact newspeople in the United States try to avoid Freedom of Information Act requests because responses are so variable and so long in coming.

Historians and those with special interests, such as environmentalists, make better use of the act.

Perhaps the purpose of the seminar Tuesday is to promote a U.S.-style  freedom of information act. That would be fairly hypocritical of U.S. Embassy workers. If they do, the most successful access to government laws are those that contain criminal penalties for reluctant bureaucrats. In the United States some laws like this are found at the state level, and they work well.

Bureaucrats are highly protective of their pensions, so that might be helpful here despite the dysfunctional court system.

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The contents of this Web site are copyrighted by Consultantes Río Colorado S.A. 2016 and may not be reproduced anywhere without permission. 
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A.M. Costa Rica's  
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Salsa Lizano
San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, April 27, 2016, Vol. 17, No. 82
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Axiom new ad

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The two eagle offspring are eyed by parents.

Eagle babies become famous
from video on the internet

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Freedom and liberty will soon be taking off in Washington. No, not the political kind, the eagle kind.

Freedom and Liberty are the names of two baby bald eagles who became internet stars when they hatched live via webcam in March.

The names were announced Tuesday at a ceremony at the U.S. National Arboretum near Capitol Hill.

The baby eagles and their parents, Mr. President and The First Lady, hit the big time after remote-controlled cameras set up near their nest captured and transmitted rare, live images of their arrival via the internet.

More than 30,000 webcam fans from around the world submitted names for the eaglets in a Name the Nestlings contest that was run through social media.

The entries were narrowed down to the five most popular pairings, Stars and Stripes, Freedom and Liberty, Honor and Glory, Anacostia and Potomac, and Cherry and Blossom, and those pairings were presented to the public for a vote.

Arboretum Director Richard Olsen worked with the American Eagle Foundation and other partners in the U.S. to bring the live webcam images of America’s national bird to millions of viewers around the world.

“This is a really good example of live-action nature," he said. "So much of what we watch today on TV or our devices is not really live, other than sports, so to be literally eating, breathing, living and sleeping with these eagles through these webcams is giving people firsthand knowledge of what's going on and what it takes to raise an American bald eagle family."

“We’ve really gotten attached to this eagle family, and the way to cement it is with names," he added.

Al Cecere, president of the American Eagle Foundation, said they held the naming contest "because we thought it would really be a way to bring the public even closer to these birds and feel part of what they're doing and learn more about them, especially the schoolchildren.”

Cecere said the project was notable because it came along at a time where people are so divided, yet they wanted to experience something that they could share together, that they could agree upon.

More than 35 million people from 100 countries have been visiting the webcam to watch the nestlings grow and develop under the watchful eyes of their parents.

The cameras serve a dual purpose: helping biologists learn more about eagle behavior and educating the public.

Freedom and Liberty, whose genders still are unknown, are expected to leave their nest in June, when they're about 12 weeks old.

“We hope that these eaglets will grow up ... and maybe find a mate someday and come back to this area and set up their own nest and raise their own babies here in the Washington, D.C., area,” said Cecere.

FBI ponders telling Apple
how hacker entered iPhone

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The FBI could reveal how it was able to gain access to the iPhone used by one of the shooters in last December’s terror attack in San Bernardino, California.

“We are in the midst of trying to sort that out,” FBI Director James Comey said Tuesday at a conference on cyber engagement at Georgetown University. “I think we’re close to a resolution."

The Obama administration sometimes will share such information under the so-called vulnerabilities equities process, if companies can use the information to work on a patch to protect information or systems.

At other times, the government will seek to keep the vulnerabilities secret if a case can be made that by releasing them, access to vital intelligence will be compromised.

Comey’s admission the FBI is close to deciding what to do about the vulnerability comes barely a week after the FBI admitted it had paid a private firm more than $1.3 million to gain access to the iPhone 5c that belonged to San Bernardino gunman Syed Rizwan Farook.

FBI officials said previously the technique used to access the data would not work on other so-called smart phones. iPhone maker Apple had been fighting a court order that required it to write new software to disable passcode protection.

Comey said Tuesday he was very glad the litigation with Apple regarding the iPhone encryption was over, though he cautioned, ”it would be bad if the conversation this started ended.”

He added, “Because we live our lives on these devices, as I do, the notion that they will be immune to judicial process takes us to a place we’ve never lived before. There has never been a time in the 240 years of our country that privacy was absolute.”

The FBI director also sought to reassure private companies that the government and law enforcement are looking for what he described as a constructive relationship, similar to what many companies have with local fire departments, which understand the layout of their buildings in case of an emergency.

“We have to get to a place where it becomes routine for there to be an exchange, an appropriate lawful exchange of information,” said Comey.

“Even in the midst of an attack we don’t want to read your memos, we don’t want to read your emails,” he said. “We need to understand how we can quickly get the indicators of attack so we can change the actor’s behaviors.”

Sports agent, trainer facing
Cuban ball player charges

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A baseball trainer and a sports agent in Florida have pleaded not guilty in U.S. federal court to charges linked to the smuggling of top Cuban baseball talent out of the Communist country and into the United States.

Julio Estrada, owner of an athletic training business in Miami, who was arrested Friday, pleaded not guilty Tuesday in Miami. Bart Hernandez, head of a sports management company, who was arrested in February, also pleaded not guilty at his arraignment.

Prosecutors said a third suspect, identified as Haitian national Amin Latouff, remained at large. 

No trial dates have been announced.

Authorities said the charges stemmed from an earlier prosecution of four people linked to the smuggling of Cuban superstar Leonys Martin, who defected in 2010 and currently plays with the Seattle Mariners. 

Prosecutors said smuggling schemes involved 17 Cuban players who were secretly brought through Mexico to the United States. None of the players faces charges.

Authorities alleged that Estrada and Hernandez conspired to obtain false and fraudulent residency documents on behalf of the players through a Mexican company.  In exchange, authorities said, the smugglers took a percentage of any major league baseball contract signed by their clients.

In a pending civil lawsuit, the people who brought Martin out of Cuba in 2010 allege that Martin owes them millions of dollars in unpaid fees.

Martin has countered that he and his family were held captive until he paid $1.35 million of his $20 million contract to the Mexican company named in the latest indictments. 

One TV station holding out
Kremlin pressure

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Television, where most Russians get their news, has increasingly been under pressure in Russia. It is now almost completely state controlled.  But in Moscow, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin media attacks.

Privately owned TV Rain is one of Russia’s few remaining broadcasters willing to regularly air views critical of Kremlin policy and give air time to opposition politicians. 

“We’re not a politically motivated network.  We don’t really see it as our goal to challenge the political establishment or anything like that,” said anchor Natalia Shanetskaya.  “You know, we just try to be as objective as we can, and that’s really what we’re about.”

President Vladimir Putin’s government has increased state ownership of news media and imposed restrictions on critical reporting. 

Since 2005, U.S. democracy watchdog Freedom House has labeled Russia’s press freedom status as not free while its civil liberties and freedom rating fell in 2015 to a ranking of 6 out of a possible 7 with 7 being the worst. 

Reporters Without Borders’ 2016 World Press Freedom Index ranks Russia at 148 out of 180 countries, just behind Pakistan.  

TV Rain's independence is what brought many of its staff to the station, including some like Ms. Shanetskaya who left state media as the Kremlin tightened its grip.

The change in editorial line hit political reporting the hardest.  “For a while, since I covered business and economics, we were left alone,” says Ms. Shanetskaya.  “But, at some point I started to feel like we too were no longer unaffected by that.”
Refusing to join state media in pandering to authorities has come at a price for TV Rain.

Political pressure over a program that questioned Soviet strategy during World War II led cable companies to drop the channel in 2014. 

Most at the news organization think it was an excuse. “I sincerely believe that if it wasn’t that story, about the siege of Leningrad, they would find something else,” TV Rain’s Digital Media Chief Ilya Klishin said.  “It was just a matter of days or weeks.”

Even after a quick apology for those offended, the pressure continued to mount with some calling for the station to be shut down. 

The Kremlin routinely denies being behind any political pressure on the media.  But, at the time, President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, voiced support for the nationalist campaign mounted against TV Rain and backed by pro-Kremlin politicians.  “I do not know of any laws that these actions violated,” he said about TV Rain.

“But, I think that there is something more serious from the point of view of morality and ethics,” he concluded ominously. 

To survive financially after the loss of advertising revenue, TV Rain was forced to change to an online subscription-based business model. 

Subscribers have grown to more than 70,000, and Klishin says its web site gets some six million unique views a month. 

Voter ID appeal possible
of North Carolina decision

 By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Civil rights groups are considering an appeal to a court ruling that upheld a North Carolina law requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls, a ruling they say discriminates against minorities.

Tuesday's ruling by U.S. District Judge Thomas Schroeder in Winston Salem is a victory for Republicans who contend the law is needed to prevent voter fraud.

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican who is seeking re-election this year, applauded the decision.

"This ruling further affirms that requiring a photo ID in order to vote is not only common sense, it's constitutional," he said in a statement.

But the ruling is being condemned by some civil rights organizations considering an appeal. The American Civil Liberties Union and Southern Coalition for Social Justice say the ruling keeps a law in place that unfairly targets African-Americans and other minority voters.

"The sweeping barriers imposed by this law undermine voter participation and have an overwhelmingly discriminatory impact on African-Americans," said ACLU Voting Rights Project Director Dale Ho. "We are already examining an appeal," she added.

The case tested a key component of numerous voting restrictions that were approved after a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2013 effectively eliminated a key part of the Voting Rights Act. The high court ruling eliminated the need for North Carolina and other states with a history of voter discrimination to get federal approval prior to changing voting laws that impact minorities.

Tuesday's decision is an indication of how federal courts may handle future cases involving voting laws. The ruling also upheld the elimination of a week of early voting, the end of same-day registration, and the prohibition of counting of out-of-precinct ballots.

In the 485-page ruling, Judge Schroeder wrote that North Carolina has "provided legitimate state interests for its voter-ID requirement" and that the plaintiffs have "failed to show that any North Carolinian who wishes to vote faces anything other than the 'usual burdens of voting.'"

Kerry says religion crucial
in creating foreign policy

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Saying governments cannot lead a world they do not understand, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry highlighted the impact of religion on foreign policy during a Tuesday speech in Houston, Texas.

“We cannot understand the world if we fail to comprehend and honor the central role that religion plays in the lives of billions of people,” Kerry said at Rice University.

It was his first speech focusing exclusively on the topic of religion and foreign policy.

However, a senior State Department official said Kerry has long recognized the importance of understanding religious dynamics as part of the broader U.S. foreign policy making.

In 2013, Kerry established the State Department’s Office of Religion and Global Affairs as part of the Obama administration’s initiative to encourage interfaith cooperation.

“With 84 percent of people around the world identifying with a religious group, religion is a powerful force in global politics and civil society, one that must be taken seriously,” the State Department said in a 2015 fact sheet.

In his speech, Kerry touted religious initiatives that have taken place under his watch, including a 2015 workshop for religious leaders in Nigeria on the topic of corruption. He also noted how religion can have either a positive or a destabilizing influence on world affairs.

“It is part of what drives some to initiate war, others to pursue peace,” said Kerry, who added that extremist groups such as Islamic State have carried out atrocities under the veil of religion.

In addition, Kerry said Christians have been facing persecution or repression in regions including the Middle East and South Asia, Tibetan Buddhists face harassment in China, and the Rohingya population has been singled out for discrimination in Myanmar.

Kerry is on the first leg of a two-day trip to Texas that also will include a stop in Austin, where he will take part in a clean energy event and a summit focusing on the Vietnam War.

Trump and Mrs. Clinton
are big primary winners

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

U.S. networks are projecting that Donald Trump won all five Republican presidential primaries held Tuesday. They were in Rhode Island, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Maryland.

They also project that Hillary Clinton won four of the five Democratic presidential primaries, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Connecticut. Her Democratic rival, Bernie Sanders, won Rhode Island.

Trump came into Tuesday with 845 delegates, followed by Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas with 559 and Ohio Gov. John Kasich with 148.

Cruz and Kasich have decided to strategically campaign in the remaining states to try to deny Trump the nomination and force a convention battle in July.

At a campaign rally in Indiana, whose presidential primary is next week, Cruz acknowledged he was not expected to win any of the five states voting in primaries on Tuesday. But he told supporters not to write him off because he expects to do well in Indiana and Nebraska, which holds its primary May 10.

Trump calls the Stop Trump effort pathetic and accuses the Republican Party of treating him unfairly, saying the election system is rigged.

An NBC News/Survey Monkey poll gives Trump more than 50 percent support among Republican or Republican-leaning voters nationwide for the first time. His national support had been less than 50 percent.

For the Democrats, the networks project that former secretary of State Hillary Clinton would win Delaware, Maryland and Pennsylvania. But Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont was projected to win Rhode Island, and is leading Clinton in neighboring Connecticut. Winning Connecticut would be an upset for Sanders.

Mrs. Clinton entered Tuesday with 1,944 delegates. In order to win the Democratic nomination she will need 2,383 delegates.

She told a crowd of jubilant supporters in Philadelphia that she will unify the Democratic Party to win the presidential election in November and carry on a strong progressive tradition.

European Space Agency
considers plan for moon base

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

With a permanently occupied space station orbiting the earth, the next step is a permanently occupied lunar station on the moon. The European Space Agency is moving ahead with plans to set up a moon base.

The moon village is expected to be a collaborative effort between the European agency and other countries with space programs.

According to Johann-Dietrich Woerner, director general of the European Space Agency, the village would be for scientific experiments, mining of potential resources and tourism.

"I think we should go first to the moon and then further on," Woerner said during a session at the 32nd Space Symposium called "New Generation Space Leaders Panel: The Future of Human Spaceflight. "I would not call Mars the ultimate goal. I am quite sure humans will go further."

Calling the moon base a village is not by accident.

"A village is something where different people are gathering with different capabilities, different opportunities, and then they build a community," Woerner said. "It's not one village with some houses, a church."

He went on to call the moon village a stepping-stone and test bed for a potential trip to Mars.

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has set a goal of sending humans to Mars in the 2030s.

Democracy advocate reports
a decline in press freedom

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Freedom of the press declined across the globe last year to its lowest point in more than a decade, a Washington watchdog group has concluded.

Freedom House, which advocates for the expansion of freedom and democracy around the world, said in a new report today that only one in seven people across the globe lives in countries where coverage of political news is robust, journalists' safety is guaranteed, there is minimal state intrusion in the media's affairs and the media are not subject to onerous legal or economic pressures.

Jennifer Dunham, the report's research director, said that authoritarian rulers and terrorist groups throughout the world are cracking down on journalists' independent reporting, while jailing, abusing and killing reporters who dare to write and televise reports at odds with official government edicts, or expose corruption.  Other countries, like China, she said, limit access to certain internet sites that might reflect badly on the government in power.

She blamed deteriorating global press freedom on the "heightened level of violence against journalists" and the increased partisanship and polarization of media outlets around the world, with many journalists forced by governments and insurgent groups to take sides in armed clashes or by powerful media groups looking out for their business interests.

She said that in Syria, where at least 14 journalists were killed last year, and Iraq, "We see reporters having to risk their lives to get any kind of news whatsoever.”

In Mexico and Central America, Ms. Dunham said journalists face retribution for writing about drug cartels controlled by organized crime syndicates and protected by local police.
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or 506-8314-8090


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Sierra Collection. Meridian House or Chateau Montage.
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Axiom two
The Terraces at San Martin.  Discover the essence of Costa Rica on our Luxury Ocean View Villas . Near Dominicalito Beach and Parque Nacional Marino Ballena.
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Axiom three
Ellan At Ballena Beach.  Welcome to a world of endless adventure on our beachside condominiums at Ballena Beach, Pacific Coast.  For more information click  HERE!
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    2.47 acre ocean view property w/ 2 houses & 2 unfinished apartments $249k!!!
    2 houses and pool furnished, great rental potential walk to the beach $327k w/ owner financing
    2-bedroom furnished condo 400 feet from Jacó beach $179,000

and lots of other great properties! Property listings in Escazú, Herradura, Jacó, Manuel Antonio, Dominical and beyond. We offer efficient, personalized service always protecting our client’s interests. Contact us today with your questions about buying property in Costa Rica. With 11 years experience in Costa Rica real estate.

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Real estate for sale (paid category)

Pavo onr
FOR SALE - $270,000
Exceptional 3-bedroom, 3-bathroom, fully furnished luxury apartment for sale at the exclusive Terrazas de Escazú highrise complex in Escazú near La Paco Commerical Center.  Situated on the third floor, this apartment has an exceptional layout with stunning views of the Central Valley. 140 m2 bright and spacious floor plan with open sky terrace with 180-degree unobstructed view of the Escazú mountains and Central Valley.  One covered parking spot with additional guest parking available. HOA fee:  $250/month. Held in Costa Rica corporation for easy property transfer. Building features: 12-meter atrium with controlled access entrance to the building, surrounding landscaping, lower level pool, communal rooftop terrace and small rooftop gym. 24-hour security. Contact: José Granados in Costa Rica, phone 506- 6051-5249  email:
paco two

first image
B&B for sale in Costa Rica $650,000

I believe this is the finest area of Costa Rica in which to live and, with a lock on 80percent of all tourists visiting Costa Rica, to invest. There are birds and flowers of every description, terrific neighbors, incredible views, wonderful weather with a healthy climate, visits by sloth, deer, monkeys, a very good business that can expand and grow, if desired, or simply a beautiful place to live. Please look at my Web site and the guest reviews, the people's reaction to the property, and you'll see just what a wonderful opportunity this is

There is about 7,000 square meters of land included (over 1 3/4 acres) as well as another smaller home and an apartment above the carport, designed as maid's quarters but usually rented out to tourists. The rear of the property is bordered by a small and very clean spring-fed creek/river. Across the river there is jungle, which makes for a great deal of all around privacy and which will never be developed. Restaurants, a supermarket, services, and many natural attractions are just a short distance away. The property was appraised at over $1.7 million (US) a few years ago, which might indicate what an incredible bargain this is.

It can also include a franchise for Best Western Hotel, if interested in growing with the tourism business, and a small hobby farm bordering Arenal National Park with spectacular views of Lake Arenal, is also available. All is available at an excellent price for the right person (people) and a package price can certainly be arranged. Email me at: For more photos and info click HERE!


Dorn Home
Beverly Hills Style House for Sale on Pacific Coast, Guanacaste

Lot of 2,866.33 square meters with three terraces, inside luxury house  property with 326 square meters construction. Two-story house with front porch, entry lobby, living room, dinning room, large kitchen, breakfast room, large cupboard, 3 1⁄2 bathrooms, 3 large bedrooms, the main bedroom includes jacuzzi and balcony. Playground, office, laundry area, garage for two cars, own and municipal potable water supply, electricity service, cable TV system, A/C. Located 700 meters from Las Colinas Golf Course, near the airport, Tamarindo Beach and the best beaches of the country. Excellent construction and great details. Price $349,000.   We have another extra large lot (next to the main property)  priced at $75,000.  For more information, please contact us: Emails:   or    Call Lia or Stanley phones:  (506) 2653-6417 /   (506) 7079-6577.

Negotiable price. Thirty thousand seventy square meters. The house is seven hundred fifty squared meters, built three years ago. Five bedrooms plus servant's room with bathroom. Each bedroom includes private bathroom. Master's room includes Jacuzzi and hidromassage. Two main living rooms plus visitor's parlor and hall, two furnished kitchens, all ceramic. Nineteen rooms total counting three offices, eight-car garage. Has 220-volt current with three distribution panels. First-quality water plus well, decorated stone walls, recreational area, second house eighty squared meters, hot water systems, cable, telephone, light system throughout property, river, part forest..

For health situation, the owner make a INCREDIBLE DISCOUNT!!!!

ORIGINAL PRICE: $1.800.000    OFFER PRICE: $1.200.000
 For more information click HERE!
To see more photos click HERE!  To see house video click HERE!

English language contact:
Christian Arce
Phone: (506) 2494-0016
Cell phone: (506) 8309-0173

Spanish language contact:
Luis Gustavo Jiménez
Phone: (506) 2494-0016
Cell phone: (506) 8707-4016

A beautiful American style suburban home just reduced.

A beautiful American style suburban home, 2,700 sq. ft. of living space with 5 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, front and rear living rooms, laundry area, kitchen and small attached library nook, arched windows and doors and connected hallways, exotic wood interior ceilings and trim, tile floors thru-out. The lot is 835 m2 with mature landscape and orchid nurseries surrounding the house. There is an enclosed workshop and BBQ area in the backyard with lots of storage under roof, plus a nursery for an herb/vegetable garden. This is a very well-kept property with many upgrades, a private feel but yet only 5 minutes from the center of town. Pérez Zeledón is the commercial hub of the southern zone and considered to be one of the best places to live in all of Costa Rica, the perfect size town, not too big and not too small. The beach is 45 minutes to the west and a short drive to the cool mountains is to the east. In between, this large valley has a moderate climate. Pérez has plenty of modern goods and services, an excellent farmers market, private schools, private doctors and clinics, all you need without having to go to the crazy madness of San José. Just reduced to $199,000. Call Jeff: 8725-8176. Email:


San Rmon
Mountain home w/million dollar view near San Ramón
Beautiful home in the mountains near San Ramón with 180-degree view of the gulf of Nicoya. 7 miles from San Ramón, 1 mile from Interamericana highway. 3,200 foot elevation so temp is 65 to 75 year around. Electric gate, private drive. house built in 2010. 2 bedrooms, 1 bath, appliances included. High-speed internet installed,  Price for sale $179,000    Contact Mike: 
Check out slide show HERE!

Ocean View Property for Sale in San Ramón
1.5-acre lot with spectacular ocean views. Ready to build. Mild climate year round with an average temperature a cool 74 degrees. Spectacular panoramic views of
                                for sale
the ocean and port of Puntarenas during the day, breathtaking views of Esparza at night. Fully titled and owned under a Costa Rican corporation. $50,000. Short-term owner financing available. For more info: Contact: Frank

Jacó beach unique home. First time offered
This house has never been listed.  It is a 3-bedroom, 1-bath home approx. 100 feet above sea level on the only hill in Jacó one mile to the beach.  Totally remodeled to a Gringo house.Has great fenced yard for dogs and a huge screened porch with  great views all around, including a small ocean view.  New in the last two years includes: new kitchen with granite counter, cedar cabinets, all new windows, tile, water system, updated electric & plumbing, superb new AC units (low electric bill), This is half of a duplex with a platted yard.  Other side is the chief of police.  Secure & private.  $169.900. Call Glenn at 506-6214-0056 or

La Uruca condo
Situated three miles west of the capital, eight miles from the airport. Quiet, secluded area within walking distance to a commercial center including a hotel, six restaurants,  next to two bus line stops. Car ownership is not needed. January-March air temperatures are 72 to 80 degrees F. Apartment 1,200 sq. ft (100 sq. meters), on ground floor, indoor  patio. Large windows without bars, parquet floors. Spacious living room-dining area, two bedrooms, maid's room, two bathrooms, four closets  (including walk-in), fully equipped kitchen (refrigerator, washing machine, small appliances, all necessary utensils, work tools).  Many amenities, (pictures, indoor plants, sewing machine, books, keyboard, dishes, glassware, silverware). Annual cost of maintenance about $1,350 includes water, landscaping service, garbage disposal, 24-7 security and property taxes. Price $120,000. Available for viewing:  Mid-January to beginning of April. Contact:  USA :  585 544-4296. Costa Rica : 506 2231-0410

For sale 5,200 m2 Escazú
Fantastic location for condo, hotel, restaurant.
Large lower lot, incredible views. Flexible zoning.
Easy to get liquor license. Low interest financing.
Toll free US phone 877-778-8515
In Costa Rica 8307-0164

San Ramon
Mountain home w/million dollar view near San Ramón
Beautiful home in the mountains near San Ramón with 180-degree view of the gulf of Nicoya. 7 miles from San Ramón, 1 mile from Interamericana highway. 3,200 foot elevation so temp is 65 to 75 year around. Electric gate, private drive. house built in 2010. 2 bedrooms, 1 bath, appliances included. High-speed internet installed,  Price for sale $179,000    Contact Mike: 
Check out slide show HERE!

Grecia casa
Mountain home for sale
in Grecia.
Less than a year old. Owners are motivated.  All information regarding the home as well as many photos can be found at Mountain view home for sale Grecia, Costa Rica.   Contact email:

puriscal photo
Costa Rica home for sale $163,500 / 2bedroom - 1,984 ft2

Central Valley view home: 10 minutes from Santiago de Puriscal and shopping, hospital services, and soon Maxi Pali. Only one hour to San José or Pacific beaches.
- On .55-acre lot with river on one boundary
- Area under roof, 1,984 sq. ft., Area inside walls, 925 sq. ft. Steel, recycled
      Styrofoam, and concrete construction.
- 2 ½ years old with central living room and kitchen, 2 bedrooms and 2 baths,
       ceramic tile throughout.
- Central Valley volcano and SJO airport views from every room.
- Vaulted ceilings give bright open feeling.
- Entrance from concrete road to large graveled parking area
- VERY energy efficient with VERY low property taxes.
- Covered attached carport with entrance to front door or laundry-guest bath
- 2 carport storage bodegas.
- 12 foot x 14 foot storage bodega
- Security lights, And Amcrest day & night video recorder system.
- Producing banana trees, and mango, bread fruit, and guanabana trees

Includes: Refrigerator, gas stove & oven with electric grill element, microwave, electric washer-gas dryer stacked style, gas on demand whole house water heater. Other furnishings are negotiable. ICE electric service and land line phone. Bajo Burgos Water district. Metro-wireless WiFi is available. Tigo Star Satellite T.V. House is in a Costa Rican corporation, will transfer shares. Contract or call 506 2416-9324.  Additional photos are available on Flickr album

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Several profitable businesses, including a regional radio station, are for sale in Costa Rica. Certain purchases can provide the new owner with residency as well as a great lifestyle. So live your dream while making a profit. Contact:

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, April 27, 2016, Vol. 17, No. 82
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Panamá Papers data to be released May 9

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists said Tuesday that it would release the largest-ever release of information about secret offshore companies and the people behind them, based on data from the Panamá Papers investigation. The release will be May 9, the organization said.

The searchable database will include information about more than 200,000 companies, trusts, foundations and funds incorporated in 21 tax havens, from Hong Kong to Nevada in the United States, said the organization.

The consortium is part of the The Center for Public Integrity, which calls itself nonpartisan although others characterize it as a liberal, progressive organization.

The information to be released was stolen by computer hackers from a Panamá legal firm.

The impact of the Panamá Papers has been epic, said the consortium. The investigation has led to high profile resignations, including the prime minister of Iceland; triggered official inquiries in multiple countries; and put pressure on world leaders and other politicians, such as Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron, to explain their connections to offshore companies, it said.

The revelations sparked a new sense of urgency among lawmakers and regulators to close loopholes and make information about the owners of shell companies public, it added.

The Mossack Fonseca law firm said that the major suspect in the leak of private papers was a foreign government.

Even though the documents have been obtained illegally, many governments, including Costa Rica, are launching investigations of the individuals and firms named as being involved with the law firm.  Mossack Fonseca specializes in setting up offshore corporations.

Bill regulating private tuition advances

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A legislative committee approved a bill Tuesday that would regulate the fees and tuition charged by private universities. The measure now goes to the full legislature.

The committee, the Comisión Permanente Especial de Ciencia, Tecnología y Educación, approved the concept of having the private institutions under the jurisdiction of the Consejo Nacional de Enseñanza Superior Universitaria Privada.

In addition to tuition, the agency would regulate exam fees, laboratory fees and other expenses. Each major at a university would have to seek accreditation. The Sistema Nacional de Acreditación de la Educación Superior does this now, but accreditation is voluntary.

Supporters of the bill said that they seek to strengthen the power of the Consejo Nacional and also insure that students receive a quality education.

The higher education institution also would be required to establish clear standards for admitting students and for hiring faculty, according to a summary of the bill, No. 19.549.

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From Page 7:

Grupo Roble invests $5 million in Escazú plaza

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Grupo Roble has invested nearly $5 million in its Plaza Roble corporate center, located south of  Multiplaza in Escazú.  The firm said that a well-known architect was contracted to present proposals for modernizing and renovating the space.

Some 3,000 persons work in the plaza Roble, which includes areas that are free trade zones.

The remodeling included lobbies, plazas, patios and other space around the six office buildings and a central large plaza.

Alberto Poma Kriete, corporate director of Grupo Roble, said that an energy efficient system of air conditioning also was installed. Lighting also was improved and more closed-circuit television systems were installed.