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(506) 2223-1327         Published Monday, May 5, 2008, in Vol. 8, No. 88         E-mail us
Jo Stuart
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The many ways to lose an employee without paying
By Garland M. Baker
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Digging deeper into the three-letter rule to fire an employee in Costa Rica turned up something interesting.  There is no three-letter rule.  Giving two warning letters and then a final firing letter is only a custom in this country, not the law.

Actually, writing a letter to the employee is also a custom, not the law.  The following analysis expands on the information written in the articles “Being too nice can backfire on any employer” and “Employers are getting pounded in labor court cases.”

The Código de Trabajo or labor code Article 81 refers to “causes for firing an employee” but does not refer to a warning anywhere except for in Section i. This section states the following: “when a worker, after an employer’s first warning, commits another fault described in Article 72, Sections a), b), c), d) and e) the act is sufficient for dismissal.”  

Here is a gist of the content of those sections:

a.) Abandoning work during working hours without just cause or permission from the employer;

b.) The promotion of political, electoral propaganda and/or spreading information against the democratic institutions and religious liberty guaranteed by the constitution;

c.) Working under intoxication, drunkenness or a similar state;

d.) Using work tools and/or supplies for something other than their defined use,

e.) Carrying a firearm during work hours unless doing so is authorized or the gun is a tool of the job.

This would lead a reader of the labor law to surmise that any other infraction not listed above is sufficient for immediate firing.  However, this is not the case. Recent court decisions state an employee should be given the chance to correct any fault.  Neither the law nor the court decisions state how many chances an employee should get.  Jurisprudence does dictate that giving an employee too many chances gives the worker judicial security turning a fault into the norm.

There is something else in the labor law that most people and even legal professionals do not know.  An employer only has one month to censure an act that constitutes a firing offense.  To censure means to reprimand or fire the employee. The custom of giving employees warning letters is to document breaking the rules for a court proceeding if one should arise.  A verbal censure with two witnesses is also sufficient.  This said, it is better to use the customary warning letter not witnesses.

Here is a list of firing offenses:

1.) Acting in an immoral, insulting or slanderous manner during work against the employer;

2.) Acting in an immoral, insulting or slanderous manner during work against a fellow worker if the such behavior alters the worker’s labor;

3.) Acting in an immoral, insulting or slanderous manner away from the workplace against an employer or representatives unless the behavior is provoked;

4.) Using property, machinery, tools, prime materials, products and supplies of the employer in an illegal or illegitimate way;

5.) Reveling trade secrets;

6.) Putting the workplace or fellow worker at jeopardy due to an imprudent, neglectful act;

7.) Not showing up for work for two consecutive days or for more than two days in a calendar month;
you are fired graphic

8.) Not following procedures to prevent accidents or sickness or not following directions to improve work performance and efficiency;

9.) Violating the sections of Article 72 after a first warning;

10.) Lying about work qualifications and/or references;

11.) Getting a prison sentence;

12.) Any other fault set forth in a labor contract with the employer.

In summary, the Costa Rican law labor is unclear about warning employees regarding committing acts that warrant dismissal from their jobs. 

Only one section of one article in the entire law even mentions a warning.  However, court jurisprudence suggests employers must give their employees a chance to correct wrongs.  

Thus, this writer recommends giving employees at least one written warning letter for an offense warranting firing.   An employer should write the letter to the employee in Spanish and it should go something like this:

“You have committed an act described in Article 81 of the Costa Rican labor law, and we are calling your attention to the fault.”  The employer should describe the fault in the letter. 

If the employee commits another violation, an employer should fire them immediately without employer responsibility.  The employer should use another letter that says, “You are dismissed for committing an act described in Article 81 of the Costa Rican labor law.”  The employer should describe the fault in the letter but not mention the first letter.

Without employer responsibility means the employer will not pay the employee separation pay, which comprises two parts: 1.) preaviso, notice pay, and 2.) cesantia, severance pay.  An employee’s accumulated vacation and Christmas bonus are untouchable, and even a fired worker has the right these amounts.

Cesantia can be significant, up to eight months of pay for an employee who has worked eight years for the employer.

Almost all expats who come to Costa Rica have to deal with workers. Whether they are domestic help or laborers in a company, going to labor court is a nightmare and usually the bosses lose when battling with a worker in court.   At least knowing how to fire a bad employee is a start in the right direction.  Following these guidelines does not guarantee a court win but only a better chance of not losing so miserably.

Garland M. Baker is a 36-year resident and naturalized citizen of Costa Rica who provides multidisciplinary professional services to the international community.  Reach him at  Lic. Allan Garro provides the legal review.  Reach him at  Baker has undertaken the research leading to these series of articles in conjunction with A.M. Costa Rica.  Find the collection at, a complimentary reprint is available at the end of each article.  Copyright 2004-2008, use without permission prohibited.

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Security minister says
she ended formal ties in 2002

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The security minister said Friday that she had resigned her director's post with Grupo Papagayo in 2002 and at the same time stopped working as a marketing employee.

The minister, Janine del Vecchio, was responding to a newspaper article and a call by opposition party members that she clarify her relationship with the firm and its president, Anna Moscarelli.

The same day Ms. Moscarelli issued a press release in which she explained why she had been called to testify in an Italian court case in 2005. She denied knowing that any of her European customers had been linked to the Sicilian Mafia.

Ms. del Vecchio addressed the situation briefly in a press conference at the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública. Legislators of the Partido Acción Ciudadana called on her Thursday to clarify her relationship.

Ms. del Vecchio, a Partido Liberación Nacional insider, served as Costa Rican ambassador to Switzerland from 1994 to 1998. It was there she met Ms. Moscarelli, who owned a hotel in Lugano. Ms. Del Vecchio may have been instrumental in Ms. Moscarelli deciding to become involved in tourism operations in Costa Rica.

Ms. del Vecchio said Friday that she never had any knowledge of the source of Ms. Moscarelli's funds. She also confirmed that she purchased a villa in the Papagayo development directed by the Italian woman.

The minister said she never would deny the friendly relations she had with Ms. Moscarelli, but said she stopped frequent contacts in 2002 because the two women went in separate paths.

Ms. del Vecchio most recently served as a legislative deputy before being named last month as security minister.

In her statement Ms. Moscarelli denied ever having done business with the Mafia. She said she simply offered professional services to an Italian company and its partner in making an investment in Lugano. She said she never suspected that years later this person, Salvatore Sciangula Alfono, would be involved in legal problems in Sicily.

She said she was called to testify as a witness in 2005 because the son of the man was involved in a financial dispute.  Sciangula died that same year. The Spanish language newspaper La Nación identified Sciangula and another Italian as Mafia associates.

New farmers' market
announced for Uvita

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Fans of local and organic foods will soon have a fresh option for their Saturday morning ritual.  Beginning Saturday and continuing each Saturday throughout the year area farmers, artisans and specialty food producers will gather in Uvita to bring to the southern Pacific coast their products.

Uvita's new farmer's market. Feria Rincon de Uvita, will take place each Saturday from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. at El Rincon de Uvita, the new sports complex just completed across the Costenera highway from the Banco Costa Rica in Uvita. 

This market is put together as a community event designed to introduce area consumers to the farmers, artisans and other micro-enterprises of the southern Pacific zone, said organizers. Available will be fruits and vegetables (organic and local), free-range meat and dairy, sustainably sourced fish, bulk staples, natural home and personal care products and loads of other ethically produced items. In addition, there will be gift and artesian items.

The first market day will include live music, traditional dance, door prizes and face painting for the children in addition to the full array of local vendors selling their goods.

More information is available at 8365-4040 or by e-mailing, which is the address of Cosecha Casera Chirripó in San Gerardo de Rivas, Pérez Zeledón.

Tourist dies in Lake Arenal

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A man believed to be a tourist from the United States died in Lake Arenal, the presumed victim of a kayak accident.

The man was found in the early afternoon by boaters. He was believed to have been visiting Nuevo Arenal. Officials said that the lake was turbulent because of strong winds.

Country certified as turtle friendly

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The U.S. Department of State again has certified Costa Rica to export shrimp to the United States. The country is one of 41 entitied so certified.

The certification means that Costa Rica has taken measures, mainly requring the use of sea turtle excluders, to reduce killing sea turtles by shrimp trawlers. The excluder lets the turtles swim out of the net if caught.

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Single-seat plane seems to be making the rounds here
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A single-seat, yellow crop dusting plane seems to be making the rounds of Central America.

The craft ended up on a private airstrip in Puerto Carrillo de Hojancha on the Pacific coast of the Nicoya Peninsula over the weekend.

But based on the Mexican registration number XB-GZM, this is the same plane that was involved in an illegal landing and the arrest of five men in Honduras earlier this month.
Costa Rican police, just like their Honduran counterparts, searched the plane, brought in drug dogs and pronounced that the craft was free of any illegal substancies.

The landing in Costa Rica appears to be related to fuel supply problems, and Fuerza Pública officers said they suspected that the craft was headed to another country.
Gerardo Lázcares, vice mininster of security, said that this craft had been modified to make more interior space. Officials suspect the craft may have been carrying cash to Colombia.

The Tribune newspaper in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, reported April 10 that what appears to be the same plane prompted a police response when it made an unscheduled landing in a rural area.

Police there identified the pilot as Olaf Guadalupe Martín. Four other men on the ground also were detained. The pilot later was released from custody because officials could not link him to any crime, said the newspaper.

The Honduran airstrip had only been constructed within the last three months, and police there said they were worried about the arrival of elements of the Sinaloa drug cartel in their country.

Patterson collection pieces turn up in Munich, Germany
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

German authorities have confiscated some 1,800 pre-columbian archaeological pieces, and some 457 of them are believed to be of Costa Rican origin. The country is trying to recover them.

The archaeological treasures, known as the Leonardo Patterson collection, were seized in Santiago de Compostela by Spanish authorities. But April 20, Spanish police said that the collection had vanished.

The latest seizure was in Munich.

Costa Rica's Museo Nacional has been working to recover the pieces that came from here.

The museum reported that Wednesday it sent documentation to Germany via the local office of the International Police Agency (INTERPOL).

The Museo Nacional filed complaints about the artifacts in 2007, said museum director Francisco Corrales in February. 

The museum received a CD Aug. 30 from local agents of the International Police Agency. The disk held images of archaeological pieces confiscated by the Spanish police. The artifacts were later determined to be of Costa Rican heritage, the museum said.

Corrales said last week that the diplomatic route is being used to coordinate with Costa Rican embassies in Spain and Germany in an effort to recover the pieces.

In Costa Rica, the laws declare that archaeological objects are part of the national archaeological heritage.  Costa Rican legislation was established stating that all archaeological objects from the pre-Columbian era obtained after Oct. 6, 1938, are properties of and can be reclaimed by Costa Rica.

Authority is given to the national museum to conduct any legal, diplomatic or administrative means for the protection of these artifacts.
patterson pre-columbian pot
Photo by the Cuerpo Nacional de Policía of Spain
One of the pieces Costa Rica would like to get back.

Patterson's collection may be valued at as much as $100 million, according to Spanish press reports. The public  became aware of it when some key pieces were put on display in Santiago. Costa Rican artifacts make up just a small part of the total. There also are Mexican, other Central American and south American artifacts.

Patterson, who is from Limón, once held a diplomatic post in the Costa Rican government and served for a time in New York at the United Nations. He probably would not be facing any criminal action in Costa Rica because the museum said that a prosecutor has asked a judge to archive the investigation because the archaeological pieces are presumed to have left Costa Rica more than 10 years ago. That would mean that no court action is possible due to a statute of limitations.

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Bolivian exit polls show Santa Cruz seeks greater autonomy
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Voters in Bolivia's wealthy region of Santa Cruz Sunday overwhelmingly approved a measure seeking greater economic and political autonomy, according to exit polls.

President Evo Morales has refused to recognize what he calls an illegal vote.

Supporters of the autonomy vote celebrated in the streets of Santa Cruz after local television stations reported the results of exit polls showing the referendum had passed by a large margin. Vote organizers say the victory gives local governments a mandate to seek greater control over political and financial decisions in the wealthy department, which is home to farmlands and oil and gas fields.

Election officials said activity at most polling stations was normal except for sporadic clashes in some areas, when supporters and critics of the measure threw rocks at each other during separate marches.

The vote is widely seen as a rejection of President Evo Morales's policies.

Morales himself has denounced the vote, saying it had split the region and threatened the nation. He says the illegal vote was a failure because violence marred what organizers had hoped would be a day of celebration. Morales also questioned the apparent victory of the autonomy measure, saying that nearly 40 percent of voters in the region did not turn up at the polls.

The president called on municipal leaders in Santa Cruz and elsewhere to work together in drafting a new constitution. Opposition leaders have refused to recognize a draft charter, in part due to the autonomy issue and disputes over other proposals.

Three other departments in eastern Bolivia are expected to hold separate votes on autonomy in coming weeks, and leaders in two others are considering votes as well.

Critics of the vote accuse business leaders in the east of trying to stop tax money from going to impoverished communities in the west, including many Indian villages. Referendum supporters say some of that money should benefit needy residents in the east.
Miguel Centellas, a Mount Saint Mary's University political science professor, said the autonomy vote has split the nation along economic, social and racial lines.

"The argument has been simply 'we have all the oil resources, natural gas.' It is really the part of the country that really is the dynamic engine of growth," said Centellas, adding:

"It picks up the slack for the weak economy in places like Potosi, Ororo, and even to some extent, large parts of La Paz."

Centellas added the autonomy movement is not new, and has been brewing for generations, in part to strengthen what some view as weak government at the department level.

One measure was defeated in a nationwide vote in 2006, when four eastern departments backed autonomy and five others rejected it.

The latest vote comes at a delicate moment for the government, as recent polls show a dip in approval ratings for Morales. The president has led a drive to write a new constitution, but the process is stalled because of the autonomy issue and other disputes.

Raul Madrid, of the University of Texas at Austin, says there is concern that simmering tensions may explode.

"They are moving into uncharted territories, and I am fearful this could end up being resolved in the streets with protests back and forth," said Madrid.

Madrid says recent government reforms have raised concern among business leaders in the east and elsewhere. He says they take issue with plans for widespread agrarian reform, and last week's announcements of the nationalization of the national telephone company and a key foreign oil business.

But the professor said Morales is also feeling pressure from leftist leaders calling for him to make even broader reforms.

"Certain sectors of the population want him to move much more radically than he has done so far, and he is reluctant to do that. They are getting frustrated with him," said Morales. "There are other sectors of the population that want much more moderate policies."

Second twin who also is a drug suspect captured by police
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Colombian authorities say they have captured a wanted drug lord who allegedly led a major ring with his twin brother, who was killed by police earlier this week.

Authorities say Miguel Ángel Mejia was captured early Friday in the Tolima region, about 100 kilometers west of Bogotá.

The brother, Victor Manuel Mejia, was killed Tuesday at a farmhouse in the northern state of Antioquia, along with two of his associates.
The United States had offered a $5 million reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of each of the brothers.

The two allegedly ran illegal drugs into the United States via Mexico.

Authorities say the brothers were also members of a right-wing paramilitary group that demobilized in recent years as part of a peace deal with the government. 

But the twins went on the run instead of turning themselves in as part of the deal.

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Old pages

Each day someone complains via e-mail that the newspages are from yesterday or the day before. A.M. Costa Rica staffers check every page and every link when the newspaper is made available at 2 a.m. each week day.

So the problem is with the browser in each reader's computer. Particularly when the connection with the  server is slow, a computer will look to the latest page in its internal memory and serve up that page.

Readers should refresh the page and, if necessary, dump the cache of their computer, if this problem persists. Readers in Costa Rica have this problem frequently because the local Internet provider has continual problems.


The A.M. Costa Rica search page has a list of all previous editions by date and a space to search for specific words and phrases. The search will return links to archived pages.


A typical edition will consist of a front page and four other newspages. Each of these pages can be reached by links near the top and bottom of the pages.


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

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Instant messaging called
separate form of language

By the Kent State, Ohio, news service

OMG! LOL. TTYL. For many adults over the age of 30, the former groupings of letters would seem incoherent, but for a newer generation of technologically-savvy young adults it can say a lot.  

“Instant messaging, or IM, is not just bad grammar or a bunch of mistakes,” said Pamela Takayoshi, Kent State University associate professor of English. “IM is a separate language form from formal English and has a common set of language features and standards.”

Ms. Takayoshi, Christina Haas, another English professor, and four Kent State undergraduate researchers examined the language of instant messaging. Using IM conversations produced by college students, the group analyzed and identified nonstandard features of the IM language, or the places where writers had used language features which varied from standard written English.

They found that what looked like nonstandard features of written language were, actually, the standardized features within the IM language. The language of instant messaging was found to be informal, explicit, playful, both abbreviated and elaborated, and to emphasize meaning over form and social relationships over content.

“When we look at the kinds of technology young people are using today,” said Ms. Haas, “we see that many of those technologies — IM, blogs and Facebook — are writing technologies. Even the phone is used for writing now.”

Currently, the Kent State team is extending their analysis of IM to the popular Web site to determine whether the site’s language is similar or different to instant messaging standards.

Two police officers face
charges of robbery, abuse

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two Fuerza Pública officers have been ordered to stay in contact with prosecutors after their arrest on allegations stemming from the beating of vagrants and the theft of a 1,000-colon bill (about $2).

The Poder Judicial confirmed the order Friday and identified the two men by the last names of Alvarez Calvo and Céspedes Zumbado. They are facing allegations of robbery with violence and abuse of authority.

The men were detained Monday in Alajuela when victims filed complaints and identified them as the suspected assailants. Investigators said that the men were in uniform when the alleged crimes took place.

Under terms of the judicial order, the men must maintain a fixed place of residence, avoid contact with the complainants and sign in every month with prosecutors. They also have been suspended from the Fuerza Pública while the case is investigated.

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