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(506) 2223-1327              Published Friday, May 7, 2010,  in Vol. 10, No. 89         E-mail us
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Saturday is an historic day for Costa Rica
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Saturday is Laura Chinchilla's day. Inauguration day is always one of hope and expectation.

Ms. Chinchilla has four years after 10 a.m.

Laura Chinchilla
Comisión Traspaso de Poderes photo
President-elect Laura Chinchilla Miranda
 Saturday to show that she is not a puppet of hidden political forces, as opponents alleged in the campaign.

For Óscar Arias Sánchez, the day will be bittersweet. He has said he hoped that a woman would be elected president. Deep down he has to be sad that Costa Rican presidents cannot run for a second consecutive term. The step from a man of power to a private citizen is a steep one.

To some extent, Ms. Chinchilla is not the kind of woman president some feminists wanted. She opposes abortion and is a devoted Catholic. She will not be on the vanguard of progressive measure for females. But she has promised to crack down on casinos.

The weather should be partly cloudy for the inauguration in Parque la Sabana. Most of the 20,000 spectators will have seats outdoors. Winds from the Caribbean are expected to keep rains at bay until at least mid-afternoon.

Costa Ricans will get a first taste of the Chinchilla presidency in the early afternoon when the new chief executive meets with her cabinet. She is expected to issue some unspecified decrees.

Still up in the air is who will represent the United States at the inauguration. Such events usually require an individual at a higher level than the country's ambassador. Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, have been here before, but there has not been a word from the security conscious White House.

Security officials might be nervous at threats by leftists to demonstrate Saturday by marching from downtown San José to la Sabana.

Most other interest groups, environmentalists, contract transportation drivers and others, have said they will not demonstrate out of respect for the civic democracy.

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Dollar continues to rise
against the local currency

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The U.S. dollar took another sharp jump Thursday as a result of heavy trading on the wholesale market.

Local banks are quoting exchange rates far higher than the Banco Central de Costa Rica, which seems to lag behind the market.

Banco Nacional fixed its exchange rate so that one U.S. dollar would purchase 525 colons and that 534 colons were required to purchase a U.S. dollar. Scotiabank de Costa Rica had similar rates of 524 and 536 colons.

Banco Central, however, was quoting 511.15 colons in exchange for one U.S. dollar and 521.38 colons to purchase a dollar. Those numbers were exactly what the bank was reporting 24 hours earlier, suggesting someone forgot to update the Web page.

Earlier in the week a U.S. dollar could buy just 503 colons, so the increase is about 4.4 percent.

There still was no explanation as to why the dollar took a fall from the 560-570 range in just a month and a half. Trading on the Mercado de Monedas Extranjeras wholesale market was $5 million higher Thursday than the volume traded the day before. But that did not seem to depress the exchange rate.

The volume traded Thursday was equivalent to $18.6 million, and one trade alone was $1.1 million, the Banco Central reported. However, the central bank statistics do not show each transaction.

Most analysts said that the decline in the value of the dollar was temporary and based on a surplus of U.S. currency in the country. There also were other explanations based on supply and demand.

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How about a big hug?

Slithering visitors enliven
school day in Escazú

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

There was another day of fun at the Liceo de Escazú Thursday.

Tuesday police conducted a surprise anti-drug raid but found little evidence. Nevertheless, students missed their recess when police searched them and the building.

Then Thursday someone let loose three boas in the school. The largest was about two meters, some six and a half feet. There were two juvenile boas, too, each about 18 inches.

The Policía Municipal de Escazú got the job of capturing the snakes. Such creatures are common in the Central Valley, but in this case it appears that someone let them loose at the school on purpose. Snakes usually do not hang out together.

Police said they would turn the snakes over to environmental authorities.

Music group wins decision
on copyrighted properties

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A tribunal in the justice ministry has rejected an appeal from the radio and television industry and has endorsed the right of the music industry to collect money for the right to play its products.

The Asociación Costarricense de la Industria Fonográfica y Afines distributed the ruling Thursday. The agency is the  Tribunal Registral Administrativo of the Ministerio de Justicia y Gracia.

Radio, television stations and others have been fighting to play copyrighted music for free. The decision also would seem to cover bars, restaurants and any other public place that plays music.

Typically the music group sells a license based on the amount of music to be played and frequently on the estimated gross of the business.

The firms that appealed a 2006 ruling were Dodona SRL, which does business as Amnet, and also Televisivas Repretel S.A., Televisora de Costa Rica S.A. and Servicios Director de Satélite, said the decision.

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A.M. Costa Rica guide

This is a brief users guide to A.M. Costa Rica.

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 weekday.

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.

Advertising information
A summary of advertising rates and sizes are available for display and classifieds.

Contacting us
Both the main telephone number and the editor's e-mail address are listed on the front page near the date.

Visiting us
Directions to our office and other data, like bank account numbers are on the about us page.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, May 7, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 89

Dismantled casings of lead acid batteries are part of this trash that eventually will be washed into a nearby river. The lead was recycled and the plastic casings were just dumped.
discarded batteries
A.M. Costa Rica/Dennis Rogers

Battery casings add a special zing to growing garbage heap
By Dennis Rogers
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

A large number of battery casings have appeared on the banks of the Río Tibás at a site near San Isidro de Heredia. This is a property owned by the developer of the nearby Lomas del Zurquí housing estate, and used by various developers to deposit soil with the tacit approval of the local municipality. It is regularly used by others as an illegal dump for building debris and other garbage.

The batteries had the lead removed for recycling but still had traces of acid. Among the large bags of plastic waste other bags had garbage evidently from an office. They contained paper cups and such. Here were printouts of receipts and purchase orders from a nearby battery supplier, AISA Inversiones Energéticas. The administration of a large banana company whose purchase order was found in the trash promised to take action against this supplier.
The Río Tibás after passing through Santo Domingo de Heredia joins the Río Virilla across from the north San José suburb of Tibás. Eventually these waters reach the Gulf of Nicoya by way of the Río Tárcoles.

In a more serious case of river pollution, a local television station sent a reporter and cameraman into one of San Jose’s main sewer lines to track down the source of a significant oil leak.

It turned out to come from the government's San Juan de Dios hospital. Sewer lines there do not go to any sort of treatment plant, though one is under design.

The leaks of thick, black oil entered the Río Torres because some pipes were broken in the hospital storage yard.

Thousands of gallons are believed to have escaped before television reporters began following the trail upstream.

Hunt for a shower curtain ends in a circle of complaints
Most animals, including humans, are creatures of habit. I am no exception.  The other day when I went downtown I became aware of a habit of mine. I was there to find a shower curtain – eventually one shower ring gets torn from its bearings and no amount of tape fixes it.  (I usually blame this on my empleada.) So I was looking for a new one.
From the bus stop in front of the national theater I began walking across the plaza toward Avenida Central.  Normally, when I get to the fountain, I turn right, and go east or straight ahead one block to Avenida Primera and then turn east.  I know all of the stores along both routes, and there are a couple that sell shower curtains.

But that day I paused.  ‘Let’s do something different,” I said to me, "you are becoming a creature of habit. Let’s go west on the avenue and look for a shower curtain.”  The street, which once was clogged with cars going in two directions, has long been a boulevard for pedestrians, a very nice change to which I have never objected.  But now I was in for a shock.  I was walking down a new world.  True, it started with Pop’s ice cream on the left. There still was Manolo’s restaurant and the Universal, a bookstore that sells many things besides books, and a few fast food places. 

But what had sprung up when I was going in the other direction were upscale men and women’s clothing stores and boutiques selling items I would never think of buying.  And there were shoe stores. Many shoe stores. In one block I counted six of them.  My friend Steve continues to marvel that his former wife could not pass a shoe store without stopping.  I explained to him that most women do that. We are in search of our holy grail — a pair of shoes that are elegant, fit perfectly, will walk a mile comfortably and make our legs look gorgeous. They are the only store windows that stop me dead in my tracks.  I forgot my curtain for a moment and entered one. The pair I tried on cost $60.  Happily they were not “It."

Since I was in the neighborhood I visited the family of campesinos standing in front of the huge Banco Central. The statues now face west instead of south, and the father is now slightly in front of his wife.  I love these statues. The whole family of adults with lined faces, dour and defiant, and their oversized hands testifying to their years of hard work.  Only the young mother with her child in the back row looks still ready to smile at something small.

The streets were bustling with people on the move and then near the bank’s ATM kiosks a large circle of bystanders slowed the traffic.  They were watching two men with a camera and in the center of the circle was a
Butterfly in the City
. . .  Musings from San José

By Jo Stuart

Jo Stuart

microphone with a small sign that read Quejas (complaints).  I thought it more correctly should say Quéjese but it was understood because every couple of minutes someone would go to the mike.  I couldn’t hear what they were saying, but once or twice the crowd watching applauded.  I wondered if the camera men were making a documentary or a political commercial.
By now it was lunch time.  I wanted to go to the central market, but I was tired and headed back towards the fountain.  On the way I settled for Quiznos because I could sit upstairs and watch the street below. 

After managing my tray of one classico Italiano and a root beer up two flights of stairs, I found a table by the window.

I watched the flow of strollers and shoppers and then at a little after one o’clock there appeared in the middle of the street, first a man and a women with big garbage bags. With a cigarette dangling from her mouth, the woman began tossing children’s small magazine size books from her sack onto the pavement.  The man began assembling colorful pull toys from his bag.  Down the street other vendors appeared, most with blankets on which to put their wares: DVDs, videos, jewelry. 

Another diner at a nearby window table and I looked at each other and shook our heads at the marketing method of the smoking woman and agreed there was no way anyone would buy her now soiled books.  He told me that street vending was against the law but the police were having lunch and so they came out at that time.  They would disappear in an hour.  Before I left, the woman had sold two books. 

There are vendors and upscale stores going east on the boulevard, I know, but I am so accustomed to walking in that direction, I have stopped noticing.

I will put off curtain hunting this weekend because my neighborhood is going to be the scene of another habit breaking event in Costa Rica: the first woman President is going to be inaugurated in Sabana Park.  I wonder if there are any changes we will notice.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, May 7, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 89

Escazú Christian Fellowship
Guoadalupe Missionary Baptist Church

Bishop told he stepped over the line in his sermon

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Costa Rican Constitution contains a prohibition against clergymen making what the document calls political propaganda.

So when José Franciso Ulloa Rojas, the Roman Catholic bishop of Cartago, blasted from the altar politicians who may want to separate the church for the state, three listeners objected. They filed a complaint with the  Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones.

The bishop spoke Sept. 6, 2009, at the Basilica de Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles.

The tribunal said that the bishop breached the Constitution and a clause in the election code when he called upon the
faithful not to vote for candidates who reject God and are
against marriage and the family. The bishop is in a position of authority that is likely to affect the free exercise of electoral rights by others, said the tribunal.

The bishop went in for hyperbole when he said that legislative deputies were trying to erase the name of God from the country's Constitution, suggested the tribunal. The written decision said that the electoral panel did not agree with him.

The section of the constitution, Article 28, also covers any citizen who would mix religion and politics. It said, in part: "clergymen or secular individuals cannot make political propaganda in any way invoking religious motives or making use of religious beliefs."

The tribunal told the bishop to abstain from similar comments and ordered him to pay costs of the action.

RACSA signs its first cloud computing contract

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Radiográfica Costarricense S.A. has signed its first contract to provide an integrated platform of computer applications, the so-called computing in the cloud.

The deal was with the pensions unit of the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social. The company known as RACSA has a computing facility that will offer commercial services via the Internet.

The company is way behind Google, which already offers a wide range of applications for businesses, non-profits and governments.

RACSA plans to issue cards containing small computer chips to those who participate in the program. The company also will rent a machine that will read the cards and allow access via the computer.

Cloud computing is when the applications and data bases are held by the server of the Internet provider. Customers access the various programs to do word processing and other types
of computing. Usually the result of the work also is saved in a file on the provider's computer. Savings are made because the customer does not have to buy individual version of the software.

Another advantage is that the computer user is not a hostage to any particular computer. He or she can travel the world and still access documents and business records on the provider's server.

Costa Rican Internet companies seem to be hurrying to catch up with the rest of the world.

A week ago RACSA's parent, the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad demonstrated a voice and video system so that customers can communicate long-distance. There did not seem to be any significant difference from the existing Yahoo messengering or those of other international companies.

Google offers cloud computing to businesses for $50 a year for each employee who uses the system. The company provides a wide range of applications, such as invoicing, calendar, customer contact and sales management.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, May 7, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 89

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Our readers' opinions
Stranger in Strange land
faces bubble culture

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I've followed the letters about discrimination against foreigners in Costa Rica with interest. Having lived here many years, now I think that these letters which express opposing points of view are all valid. With some perspective one can understand the feelings described by all the writers and the feelings that we inspire in Ticos.

As foreigners, none of us will likely have identical experiences here or will we all react to our experiences in the same way. Those who've had dreadful experiences are justified in their reactions, and those who have had little or no trouble are justified in their point of view. There are also many of us who have had both good and bad cultural experiences, blatant discrimination and genuine kindness, which suggests that a cut and dried opinion doesn't always fit into a box as neatly as we'd like. It's alot easier to stereotype and react according to our perceived stereotypes than it is to think outside our boxes. When we accuse Ticos of stereotyping us, it's ironic that we're doing the same to them.

Most foreigners in Costa Rica come from the U.S.A. or Europe. The first is the famous "melting pot" of cultures, and the other is comprised of many nations with distinct cultural characteristics who reside side by side. Costa Rica, on the other hand, is a tiny nation whose inhabitants have historically had far less exposure to different cultures. Everything about foreigners other than fellow Latinos is exotic and challenging for Ticos. Of course there are Ticos who misjudge us in multiple ways. However, if you stop to think about their exposure to or experience with our cultures, you realize that they have lived in a bubble compared to the far more active and sophisticated cultural exchanges that have historically been a part of our everyday lives since the U.S.A. was colonized and Europeans set sail for exotic lands.

If you live in a nation or a town or region in any nation whose populace shares the same ethnicity, cultural customs or mindset, anyone who differs from any of the above will inevitably attract attention, wanted or unwanted, and being a "Stranger in a Strange Land" goes with the territory. With time and experience territorial lines begin to fade.
Pamela Ellsworth
Nicoya Peninsula

Arias years were unkind
to expats living here

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Is Costa Rica still a good choice for expat retirement? Many are beginning to wonder. We have seen the beginning of an exodus of expats, which unless recognized by the government, could have a large effect on the economy of Costa Rica. Most expats spend a large part of their retirement or investment funds here in Costa Rica. I have heard estimates anywhere from $200 million and much higher annually, which does not include land investment or residences.

There has always been a double standard in Costa Rica, and most expats realize and learn to live with it. However over the past four years of the Óscar Arias administration it appears to have gotten much worse. There has been no cleanup of corrupt attorneys and other officials of the government who appear to prey on expats, and you are likely to die of old age if you have a case in court against a Costa Rican, which normally will not turn out to the expats advantage.

There have been massive property tax implementations aimed directly at expats, as well as the requirement for expats to join the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social, which most expats would not use the benefits of. Huge traffic fines have been implemented which most Costa Ricans cannot pay, so who would this be aimed at other than expats? Drastic increases in electric and water when you reach a certain level which most Costa Ricans manage to stay under at low rates, and more. It appears these are only the tip of the iceberg, since the current administration is still aligned with the former administration.

Today with the atmosphere such as it is in Costa Rica toward the expat community, ourselves and other expats retired here, are discouraging others from considering a retirement in Costa Rica, and advising them to look at Panamá with its easy requirements of residency, many benefits for expats, low taxes, and a welcoming people.

I believe the only reason it is not worse, is due primarily to the efforts of the Association of Residents of Costa Rica in the person of its director Ryan Piercy who heads the only organization that fights for the rights of expats, and who was instrumental in persuading the government to lower its pensionado requirements from $2,000 per month to the current $1,000. Unless Costa Rica wants to lose a large portion of expats, and not be able to attract others, I would suggest that a government committee be developed with the intent of interfacing with, and forming better relations among the country’s expat community, or see many forsake Costa Rican retirement for other friendlier countries.
Bob Stone
Palmares, Alajuela
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British likely to have
a hung parliament

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The vote count is underway in Britain after general elections Thursday for a new parliament which then determines who can form the next government and which party leader becomes prime minister. Early indications showed the Conservative Party in the lead but without an outright majority.

Indications had been all along that no party would win an outright majority and that Britain would have its first hung parliament since 1974.  Early exit polls bore that out.

David Cameron's Conservative Party was in the lead, but shy of the 326 seats needed for an outright parliamentary majority.  Prime Minister Gordon Brown's incumbent Labor Party was running second and looked headed for defeat and Nick Clegg's Liberal Democrats were coming in a far third with fewer seats than they had predicted.

One thing is certain.  Whatever new government is formed in the end, it will have to deal with deep economic problems, says Professor Nicholas Barr of the London School of Economics.

"In a strange way I'm getting echoes of central and eastern Europe after the collapse of the Communist system when all governments had to stabilize their economy, it didn't matter which political party was in power. Essentially they all had to do the same thing. So, there was very little room for political maneuver," Barr said.

The economy was the major concern for voters in this election, alongside other issues such as immigration. Final results are expected some time Friday.

Courts will close, too

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Judicial offices in the cantons of San José and Alajuela will close at noon today to allow workers to leave before pre-inaugural activities begin. The executive branch also ordered a shutdown of its offices.

The Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones also said it would close its offices, including its headquarters, in the two cantons.

Foreign diplomats already were arriving Thursday night to witness the Saturday inauguration of president-elect Laura Chinchilla. Felipe de Borbon, the heir to the Spanish throne, arrived on a military jet about 7:30 p.m.

Officials are closing off streets and want workers in the two cantons to be off the streets to avoid a massive traffic jam. Restricted also are areas around Parque la Sabana where the Saturday event will be held. Much of the downtown will be off limits tonight because there is a reception dinner in the Teatro Nacional.

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