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(506) 2223-1327               Published Thursday, May 6, 2010,  in Vol. 10, No. 88         E-mail us
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This is a rendering of the completed temporary inauguration facility in Parque la Sabana.
Sabana setting
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Half day off decreed to benefit foreign diplomats
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

School children and public employees will get a half day off Friday because the central government wants to clear the way for arriving foreign diplomats who will attend the presidential inauguration Saturday.

The executive branch decreed Wednesday that the rule should cover the cantons of San José and Alajuela.

The diplomats will be arriving throughout Thursday night and Friday. They will be the first to take advantage of the new diplomatic reception area in the new terminal facilities at Juan Santamaría airport. The first official event is a dinner at 7 p.m. Friday in the Teatro Nacional that will be hosted by President Óscar Arias Sánchez.

Later Friday diplomats and other official visitors will attend a cocktail party offered by president-elect Laura Chinchilla at the Museo de Arte Costarricense in Parque la Sabana. There is a second event at the same time hosted by Bruno Stagno, the foreign minster, in the Hotel Real Intercontinental in Escazú.

The inauguration is at 10 a.m. Saturday in a specially constructed facility in la Sabana. Ms. Chinchilla will accept the sash of office surrounded by spheres, which are designed to represent the pre-Columbian works of the natives in the Diquis region. The whole event will be in the open air, although ranking officials will have a roof over their heads.

The new president will give a major speech.
Following the inauguration at 1 p.m. Johnny Araya, mayor of San José, is hosting a lunch at Pueblo Antiguo for official delegations. The new president will have her first cabinet meeting at the same time in the Centro para las Artes y la Tecnología, the former Aduana building on Calle 23.

An official photo will be taken at 4 p.m.

The new president is the host of a late lunch from 2 to 4 p.m. for ranking visitors in the same building.

Then there is a Concierto por la Democracia back at La Sabana at 7 p.m.

At least two royal visitors have confirmed that they will attend. They are Princess Nora of Liechtenstein and Felipe, the prince of Asturias and heir to the Spanish throne.

Confirmed presidential visitors are Rafael Correa Delgado of Ecuador, Mauricio Funes of El Salvador, lvaro Colom Caballeros of Guatemala, Porfirio Lobo Sosa of Honduras, Ricardo Martinelli Berrocal of Panamá, Álvaro Uribe Vélez of Colombia, Felipe Calderón Hinojosa of México and Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia, according to the Comisióne Traspaso de Poderes.

No announcement has been made of who will represent the United States. At past inaugurations here a cabinet level official was designated by the U.S. president. The secrecy suggests that the representative will be of a high level.

More information is available on the commission's Web page.


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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, May 6, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 88

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Dollar begins its rebound
against Costa Rican colon

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The U.S. dollar has begun its comeback against the Costa Rican colon.

The U.S. currency plunged 63 colons since January. Early this week a U.S. dollar could purchase just 503 colons.

The rate given by the Banco Central de Costa Rica for today is that one U.S. dollar can buy 511.15 colons and 521.38 colons are needed to purchase one U.S. dollar.

The decline of the dollar has never been explained fully. Some analysts say that foreign money is entering the Costa Rican market to take advantage of interest rates that are higher elsewhere.

The Promotora del Comercio Exterior expressed its concerns Wednesday at the low dollar rate and said that exporters have 92.3 percent of the income in dollars and 70 percent of their expenses in colons.
 
On Jan. 7 one U.S. dollar could purchase 566 colons.

Most analysts consulted said that they thought the lower value of the dollar was a temporary phenomenon and that the dollar would return to its normal higher levels against the colon by the end of the year.

Monday traders exchanged $12.9 million on the Mercado de Monedas Extranjeras. This is not an abnormally high amount, although trading a week ago was in the $4.4 million range as those who held dollars did not offer them for sale.

The Banco Central used to devalue the colon slightly each day but decided to open the market up for trading between high and low bands where it would defend either the dollar or the colon. Despite the fall of the dollar, the central bank has not had to step in.

The declining dollar caused close to a panic among expats who live here on a fixed U.S. dollar income.

The Tico Times announced Friday that it was raising its advertising rates because of the declining dollar. A.M. Costa Rica is not changing its ad rates because managers believe the dollar will continue to grow stronger and perhaps see a 600-colon rate by the end of the year.

Telecom auction proposal
will see a hearing May 21


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The new telecom proposal for an auction of frequencies will be the topic of a hearing May 21, the Superintendencia de Telecomunicaciones has decided.

This is the auction at which three or more firms will bid to provide mobil telephone service here.

The Superintendencia has posted a draft of the bidding proposal online HERE.

The Superintendencia said it will meet with potential bidders at 2 p.m. that day to discuss concerns about the process.


Two face allegations
of home invasion links


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A man and a woman have been detained to answer allegations that they were involved with a gang that broke into homes in the Escazú area.

Judicial agents and prosecutors raided a body shop in Hatillo Wednesday to detain a man there identified by the last names of Sanabria Moya. They said they found cell phones that had been reported stolen.

In Rohrmoser, agents detained a woman with the last names of Barquero Morales. They alleged that she facilitated the home invasions by renting vehicles to the bandits.

The pair are said to have been involved with three men who were detained in mid-April.

Voter rolls opened

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rican voters who changed their address have until Aug. 5 to report the new location to the Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones if they want to participate in the Dec. 5 municipal elections, the tribunal said Wednesday as it opened the election rolls for updates.

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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.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, May 6, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 88

Major highway remains closed despite official efforts
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Arias administration had been dogged by transportation problems for the last four years, so there is no surprise that as Óscar Arias Sánchez leaves office, one gigantic problem endures.

Ruta 32, the major highway from San José to Guápiles and Limón, continues to be threatened by landslides. The 23-year-old highway frequently is closed due to slides, but now the important route has been closed for more than a week.

Transport officials are trying to knock down hundreds of square meters of rock and boulders before nature does. And that is at just one point on the road.

They already are beginning to talk about how the highway was badly planned in the first place. Designers and engineers should have removed the threats during construction, they said.

One highway official Wednesday even suggested that a concession should be considered to widen and improve the alternate route through Turrialba. That route is being used now as the principal highway while Ruta 32 is closed. The problem is that the two-lane highway was not designed for heavy trucks.

There have been at least two accidents that closed the road
because trucks going in opposite directions bumped into each other.

Vehicles using the Turrialba route have choked traffic even into the eastern part of the metro area. Consequently, the route adds about four hours to travel time between San José and Limón.

As an alternative, transport officials are discussing the possibility of putting another, safer route through Parque Nacional Braulio Carrillo to parallel Ruta 32. The park terrain is rough.

There also is fear that falling rocks and slides jeopardize the Autopista del Sol, the new highway from San José to Orotina and Caldera. This is the long-awaited highway to the Pacific that has yet to experience a rainy season.

The Ruta 32 problems have an impact on tourism in the southern Caribbean coast. Residents there who are planning a trip to San José are worried they will have to take the challenging Turrialba highway.

Optimistic transport experts say that Ruta 32 could be open by Saturday. Others say they will not guess when the road will be back in service. Efforts to dynamite the threatening hillside did not generate the landslide Wednesday that officials hoped. More than 30 kilos of dynamite, some 66 pounds, were placed in shallow holes Tuesday and detonated Wednesday.


Renewing tourist visa proves to be prolonged nightmare
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

North American expats who want to renew their tourism visit by paying $100 to immigration officials here better await the change in government.

A Swiss citizen who was used as a test case for A.M. Costa Rica is off to Nicaragua Sunday to renew his visit by a foreign trip. That is because after paying $100 and making three trips to the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería he failed to get his visa renewed administratively.

The Swiss citizen, who was accompanied all the time by a Costa Rican reporter, received three different explanations, was told to make additional appointments and finally was told that he did not qualify for a renewal.

The director general of the immigration agency, Mario Zamora, has said that expats renewing a tourist visa should be easy.  That was not what the Swiss citizen found.
In his first visit last week, an immigration employee told him to make a $100 deposit and return with an application filled out. On his second visit, a woman who identified herself as the head of the department told him that what he had been told on the first visit was all wrong.

On a third visit this week, the man was told that he did not qualify because his visa is for 90 days.

A close reading of the law says that visas can be extended administratively if they are for periods less than 90 days. This is believed to be a mistake in the law because it contradicts all that officials have been saying for two years. Nevertheless, it appears that immigration workers are now following that provision.

The situation is clouded because the immigration department has failed to produce regulations that interpret the law and provide detailed steps that are to be followed.
Immigration workers promised the Swiss citizen that the agency would refund his $100 made by bank deposit.



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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, May 6, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 88

Escazú Christian Fellowship
xx
Guoadalupe Missionary Baptist Church

Escazú school
drug sweep


Escazú municipal policeman walks an anti-drug dog past a line of students at the Liceo de Escazú. Police swept the school Tuesday after parents complained about drug use there, police said. They said they found traces but not a single stash.
Escazú sweep
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artists market
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The Mercado de Artesanía now occupies a street just west of Plaza de la Democracia

Demolition to begin at site planned for new tourist market

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The vendors of souvenirs are getting a new home whether they like it or not. President Óscar Arias Sánchez paid a visit on the Frontón building Wednesday which will be demolished soon to make a new home for the tourist market.

The site is between avenidas 4 and 6 on Calle 7. The central government and the municipality want to relocate the estimated 90 merchants from their present site along the west side of the Plaza de la Democracia. A number of merchants are unhappy with the idea. They do not think they will get the foot traffic they need at the new location.

The plan outlined Wednesday includes parking for tourist buses. There also is a small restaurant and bathrooms.

There are similar facilities at the current location but mostly for the use of workers there.
The current operation is located on what really is a city street. An announcement said that the governments were interested in enhancing the sales of the merchants' products, but plans also have been outlined to build a new museum of jade on the site the tin-roofed stalls now occupy.

Among the structures that also are supposed to be taken for the museum project is the one occupied by the Arias Foundation for Peace and Human Progress  adjacent to the tourist market.

Each of the vendors in the current market are licensed by the city and pay sales tax. They used to have their stalls in the vicinity of the Plaza de la Cultura in the center of San José, but they were relocated.

The stalls offer a full range of tourist items at a price generally lower than in downtown stores that have higher overhead.


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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, May 6, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 88

Medical vacations in Costa Rica

Rwanda and Yemen put
on press freedom blacklist

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The leaders of China, Russia and Rwanda are among the worst predators of press freedom according to Reporters Without Borders.

The annual report from the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders, published to mark World Media Freedom Day, highlights the worst offenders of media censorship and violence.

The list contains political figures as well as religious leaders, militias and criminal organizations.

A number of world leaders are on the list.  Gilles Lordet, director of research at the media watchdog, says one of the worst offenders is President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, where an election is to take place in August.

"He does not respect the work of the journalists. He does not want to have press freedom in his country, and he is pressuring and he can be very intimidating with journalists and censoring very regularly media and press that do not share his point of view," Lordet said.

New additions to the list included Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov and Yemeni President Ali Abdulah Saleh. Lordet says media rights in Yemen are rapidly eroding.

"Since May 2009 we observed a very bad evolution, with a lot of trials, with a lot of journalists in prison, a lot of journalists harassed and it is really the worst evolution of media freedom in the world," Lordet said.

Another new addition to the list was Taliban leader Mullah Omar.

Some names have been dropped from last year's list.  A number of Iraqi Islamist groups were taken off.  Reporters Without Borders says violence remains high but journalists are no longer a specific target.  But overall, says Lordet, the picture has not changed much from last year.

In Mexico, named as one of the most dangerous countries for the media, 62 journalists have been killed in the past 10 years. The Philippines were also highlighted as a particularly dangerous place for journalists: 30 were killed in a single attack by gunman last November.

Six held after 14 raids
relating to cocaine case


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Judicial agents made 14 raids Wednesday on homes, condos, offices, storage facilities and even a dock. Six persons were detained.

The Poder Judicial said that the arrests relate to the discovery March 10 of some 840 kilos of cocaine on the isla Resucita near Paquera de Puntarenas. Raids took place in Puntarenas, Jacó, Miramar, San José Centro, Purral, Alajuelita, Alajuela, Dos Cercas de Desamparados and Los Yoses, said the Poder Judicial.

Those arrested were five men with the last names of  Perez Arias, Acevedo Núñez, Ovares Alfaro, López Guido and Rivera Londoño, said the Poder Judicial. A woman with the last names of Avila Cortés also was held.

Acevedo Núñez works in the office of the Puntarenas port captain and was detained at work, agents said.

Rivera Londoño, a Colombian, was identified as the leader of the organization. The Poder Judicial said the gang used the Isla Jesusita to store drugs and used fishing boats to provide fuel to fastboats carrying drugs north or to landings in Costa Rica.
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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, May 6, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 88


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British go to the polls
to pick new government


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

British voters go to the polls today to elect new members of parliament and, in turn, a new government.  Leaders of three main parties are vying for the prime minister's position in a race that is promising to be very tight.

After weeks of official campaigning and months of political jockeying, voters will have their say on who they want to send to the 650-member parliament that will decide who forms the next government.

Incumbent Gordon Brown of the left-of-center Labor Party and arch-rival David Cameron of the center-right Conservative Party are vying for the prime minister's job and have been campaigning relentlessly.  But they have been upstaged by an outsider, Nick Clegg of the Liberal Democrats, a third party that has until now never seriously figured in the political race.

But, Britain's first ever televised debates changed things and thrust the young and charismatic Clegg into the limelight, making this race a tight contest.

His party members hope his charisma reflects on their local candidates.

The state of the economy has been the main issue as voters readily admit. "The biggest concern I would say, is the economic situation we are facing at the moment," one voter said.

For many, immigration, health care, education and local issues matter greatly. "In our local area, it would be police and security," said another.

And for many it is change, honesty and transparency in politics. "I think I probably speak for most of the British people when they believe they want to hear honest things and they want to actually see them being done," a voter said.

Opinion polls indicate a tight and potentially inconclusive race with neither of the two main parties winning an outright majority, meaning a possible coalition government and Nick Clegg's Liberal Democrats potentially holding the balance of power.

Because of the multitude of local elections, British public opinion polls are frequently inaccurate. Each seat in Parliament represents a separate election, and there is just no way to predict statistically so many separate races without sampling the voters in each of the 650 districts.





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