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(506) 2223-1327               Published Monday, May 10, 2010,  in Vol. 10, No. 90         E-mail us
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Shaky domestic violence laws fracture families
By Garland M. Baker
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Domestic violence laws in Costa Rica seem to work when they should not and seemly do not work when they should.  The law is also in direct contradiction to Article 52 of Costa Rica's Constitution which states, "El matrimonio es la base esencial de la familia y descansa en la igualdad de derechos de los cónyuges."  This translates into English as, "Marriage is the essential element of family and can rest in the equality of the spouses."

In fact, the domestic violence laws of this country tear a family apart on the slightest whim of a spouse.  A few tears and without any kind of witnesses, a judge will throw a spouse out on the street.  The minimum forced separation is six months, and usually the initial court audience where parties can be heard by a judge is at least a month after the eviction of the presumed guilty party.

Now this is even more interesting:  Article 51 of Costa Rica's Constitution states, "La familia, como elemento natural y fundamento de la sociedad, tiene derecho a la protección especial del Estado. Igualmente tendrán derecho a esa protección la madre, el niño, el anciano y el enfermo desvalido."

This translates into English as, "The family, as a natural and fundamental element of society has the right to special protection of the State.  Equally, this right protects the mother, the children, older people and the disabled."

Read closely, this article leaves out the man.  So, according to Costa Rica, the man is  not an important part to a marriage and has no special rights. 

This is in direct contrast to Article 33 of the Constitution which reads, " Toda persona es igual ante la ley y no podrá hacerse discriminación alguna contraria a la dignidad humana."  This translates into English as, "All people are equal in front of the law and cannot be discriminated against."

These articles of the Costa Rican Constitution seem to mean all people are equal in front of the law except for men in marriage.  This travesty is now commonly known among women.  Most of them know they have their spouse at their mercy and can use the law to get almost anything they want. 

This is very apparent in domestic violence court.  Most men are treated poorly and considered guilty before having any say in a domestic violence case.

The best strategy for a man being dragged in this type of situation is to reject the charges but accept the medidas cartulares or restrictions put on him by a judge.  This is so because probably no matter what he says, it will not make any difference in the hearing.  Usually, but not always, by rejecting the charges and accepting the restriction there will be no hearing. 

Many men are taken to domestic violence court on trumped up charges, but most attorneys agree 90 percent of them will lose in any hearing.  If these statistics are correct, why would any man want to go through with an audience in front of a judge?  Many of the judges in these courts are women with their own chips on their shoulders,
Fractured family

and all they do is drag the presumed aggressor through a diatribe of scolding.

Domestic violence is real and women and men get hurt.  Some even die horrible deaths at the hands of an aggressor.  But, what has happened in Costa Rica is that a spouse that really wants to hurt his mate in many cases ends up doing it anyway.  The law does not work when it should.  The reality of the law is that women use it to humiliate and extort from men, meaning it works when it should not. This thesis is based on observation of a number of such cases.

Most importantly, the law destroys family.  What man would want to go back to his home after six months after he has been tossed out onto the street with nothing except the cloths on his back?   In most cases, family is made of the husband, the wife, kids and even dogs and cats.  Yes, the good old concept of family.

Now let us take a true case where the woman in this typical family wants more money for more pretty things.  The man balks and a discussion about family budgets arise in these hard times.  The wife gets disgruntled and makes a complaint in front of a domestic violence judge with a few tears in her eyes, and the man is in the street in hours.  Women in Costa Rica know they can do this.  They know they can actually extort from man to get what they want using the domestic violence laws of this country.

In most cases the family goes too.  The man is on the street for the minimum of six months with no communication with his wife, children, or even the dogs and the cats.  Does anyone really think most of them want to go back to this kind of lifestyle?
In summary — and important points to ponder — in domestic violence cases in Costa Rica the man is thrown out of his home with no hearing, no rights, no say whatsoever.  He will have no say until a hearing which is usually months after the action of eviction.   In the hearing, he is presumed guilty and usually only gets a verbal beating from the judge.  He needs to fend for himself for a minimum of six months with no contact with his family. 

Do the domestic violence laws of Costa Rica preserve Article 52 of Costa Rica's constitution which states the marriage is the essential element of family and spouses are equal? 

True domestic violence is abominable and it needs to be sanctioned.  But, so should the misuse of domestic violence laws that are used in themselves a method of coercion and intimidation and end up destroying families.

Garland M. Baker is a 38-year resident and naturalized citizen of Costa Rica who provides multidisciplinary professional services to the international community.  Reach him at info@crexpertise.com.  Baker has undertaken the research leading to these series of articles in conjunction with A.M. Costa Rica.  Find the collection at http://crexpertise.info, a complimentary reprint is available at the end of each article.  Copyright 2010, use without permission prohibited.


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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, May 10, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 90

Costa Rica Expertise
Costa Rica Expertise Ltd http://crexpertise.com E-mail info@crexpertise.com Tel:506-256-8585 Fax:506-256-7575

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A.M. Costa Rica's professional directory is where business people who wish to reach the English-speaking community may invite responses. If you are interested in being represented here, please contact the editor.


Real estate agents and services

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Dollar continues to rise
against Costa Rican colon

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The dollar continues to strengthen against the Costa Rican Colon. The Banco Central composite rate today says that one U.S. dollar will purchase 532.78 colons and that 544.43 colons will be necessary to buy one dollar.

The rates are slightly less than those offered by a major public bank because the Banco Central figures include data from exchange houses that give lower rates, such as at Juan Santamaría airport.

The dollar has jumped nearly 6 percent in just a few days, although the reasons are as unclear as the reasons why the dollar dropped to 503 early last week. Some analysts speculate that the end of the high tourism season has resulted in a shortage of dollars in the local economy. Others say that exports and others with large amounts of dollars held off changing them to colons because of the unfavorable rates.

Currency valued at $22 million changed hands in trading Friday at the Mercado de Monedas Extranjeras. The highest individual trade was $1 million.


Teens given five years
for murder of student

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two 17 year olds who turned on an acquaintance and killed him got five years each in juvenile court.

The pair were sentenced to spend the time in a specialized center for juvenile criminals. The pair, who were not identified, accepted the allegation and submitted to an abbreviated judicial process.

The victim, Jason Solís Montero, 23, was hosting the pair and other individuals at his apartment in Los Filtros de Alajuelita Dec. 9, 2009. He was a university student studying odontology, said the Poder Judicial. For some reason the two guests turned on their host, shot him and stabbed him in the neck, according to a summary of the case.

They were captured by a neighbor as they tried to flee over the roof of the apartment building, the Poder Judicial said.


Vital roadway will be open
for nine daytime hours


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Truckers and motorists can brave Ruta 32 for nine hours a day until further notice.

The Consejo de Vialidad has opened the route between San José and Guápiles from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. Public employees are stationed at kilometer 22 and 23 to keep an eye on the steep hillsides that have generated slides and blocked the road all last week.

The idea is that if the mountain begins to move, the highway workers will act to halt traffic.

The vital road link has cost shippers and others significant amounts. Some truckers waited while a single front end loader cleared the highway of hundreds of cubic meters of dirt, rocks and vegetation. Others chose to take their loads over the alternate route through Turrialba.

Those who waited did not realize that it would take a week to clear the road. The highway is the best and shortest route to Limón. A lot of the traffic from Limón consisted of products that had been shipped in and unloaded at the docks in Moín.

Highway workers hope to use the hours when there is not traffic to continue to attempt to make the roadway safer. An attempt to blast down more debris failed last week when the dynamite did not have the effect workers had sought.

HIghway workers said that the hours that the road would be open are fixed and specific and without any leeway.


Conservatives talk with liberals
seeking British coalition


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Leaders of Britain's two main opposition parties resumed talks Sunday on forming a new power-sharing government, after elections last week that failed to produce a clear winner.

Negotiators for the first-place Conservatives and the third-place Liberal Democrats opened a second round of talks that were expected to last through much of the day. 

Conservative leader David Cameron and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg met face-to-face Saturday for the first round of talks.

Cameron's Conservatives won 360 seats in the House of Commons, but fell 20 seats short of a majority.  They are hoping to join forces with the Liberal Democrats, who won 57 seats. 

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Gordon Brown, whose Labor Party lost 91 parliamentary seats to finish second, says he would be willing to form a government with the Liberal Democrats, if that party fails to strike a deal with Conservatives.

Mr. Brown, whose Labor Party has ruled since 1997, will continue to serve as a caretaker prime minister until a new government is formed.


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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.

Searching
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.

Newspages
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.

Classifieds
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, Monday, May 10, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 90

Insurance restructuring proceeds at a less than blistering pace
By Dennis Rogers
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Approval of new insurance companies and the brokers to sell their products is progressing slowly, according to industry participants. The Superintendencia General de Seguros not only must approve new companies to operate in the country, but also each individual policy type.

The monopoly enjoyed by the government-owned Instituto Nacional de Seguros lapsed in 2008, but the newly founded industry regulator has moved slowly in approving new companies in the market. The regulator’s head, Javier Cascante, said at a news conference April 15 there will be about 10 companies approved by the end of the year. At present, in addition to the Instituto Nacional de Seguros there is one small Costa Rican company authorized and several multinationals.

Some companies at various stages of the approval process include Mapfre, approved as Seguradora Mundial before that company’s purchase by the Spanish giant; Caser Seguros, another Spanish company making its first venture into Latin America; Alisa, formally part of American Insurance Group before it was bailed out by the U.S. government; and Assa Compañía de Seguros from Panamá.

One of the causes of delays has been the revision of all existing Instituto Nacional de Seguros product lines, with many of those rejected as well.  

Independent brokers who will sell insurance from different companies to the public are under the regulatory oversight of the agency. These are representative of the customer rather than a supplier as with a regular agent. Several brokers have been approved including Banco Nacional and Banco de Costa Rica. Others involving established national insurance industry firms are at various stages of the approval process.

The government banks are in a position to sell policies through branches around the country in areas where it might be unprofitable to have a dedicated brokerage office. Given the quality of attention their everyday banking
clients receive and long lines for customer service, without substantial infrastructure investment it would appear difficult for them to compete directly.

The Instituto Nacional de Seguros sent a letter to all its traditional agents saying that there would be “consequences” if they sold any other company’s products, said long-time industry participant David Garrett. “I’ve moved my desk out of the office, sold my shares, resigned from the board” he said of his former firm, Garrett and Associates, so there is no conflict while his brokerage approval process is underway. He said once brokerages are approved, there is no reason to retain a dedicated Instituto Nacional de Seguros agency since a broker can sell that insurance too.

The assistant director of marketing for the Instituto Nacional de Seguros, Róger Arias, said in an e-mail that all existing contracts with agents date to before the opening of the market and have exclusivity clauses. He said once the regulations for insurance sales are approved by the Consejo Nacional de Supervisión del Sistema Financiero, the Central Bank’s oversight entity, existing contracts will be renegotiated if the agents desire. Normally the contracts are for five years, but shorter terms will also be subject to negotiation, he said.

Carlos Benavides of the UNISERSE agency said his company, one of the largest in the country, is under contract with the Instituto Nacional de Seguros until the end of 2011, so it won’t be venturing into brokerage territory before then. He thinks many of the 70 present Instituto Nacional de Seguros agencies will disappear in the next few years, as overhead is too high to compete selling just Instituto Nacional de Seguros products. Being a captive agency will not be acceptable in the new environment, he said.

Benavides suggested that the Instituto Nacional de Seguros will have to wake up and pay attention to service quality. A large number of Instituto Nacional de Seguros products have been rejected by the regulators because there now are technical requirements, not just the criteria of the company, regulators said.


Another metro area park being developed in the north
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A new park is taking shape north of San José. It is the Parque del Bicentenario, which will contain 280 hectares, about 692 acres. Officials hope the park will be finished in time for the bicentennial of the country's independence in 2021.

The People's Republic of China has donated $7 million that helped jumpstart the project.

The park is being characterized as similar to Parque la Sabana in the west or Parque de la Democracia in the south. The country also is developing Parque de la Libertad, which straddled the line between Desamparados and La Unión.
The Parque del Bicentenario is in the cantons of Moravia and San Miquel de Santo Domingo de Heredia. It's northern border is highway 32, the Autopista Braulio Carrillo.

To the south, the park touches Los Sitios and the Río Ipis. The eastern border in the Río Virilla. To the west is Paracito and a bridge over the Río Panamá.

In one of his last acts as president Óscar Arias Sánchez paid a visit to the undeveloped park. He said it would benefit some 800,000 persons in the area. Officials are calling the park another lung for the metro area.

China donated $11 million, but $4 million is going to develop Parque de la Libertad.



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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, May 10, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 90


Teatro Nacional
Casa Presidencial photo

Those who designed the Teatro Nacional wanted to do double duty. That does not happen often. But there is a tradition of having a big state dinner at the theater. This means workers there have to remove the seats and raise the special floor. Most spectators who attend musical and dramatic events at the theater are unaware that the floor
can be raised. Workers did so last week in time for a pre-inaugural dinner hosted by outgoing president Óscar Arias Sánchez Friday night. Former president Abel Pacheco gave his inaugural dinner in the same place May 8, 2002. Despite the plush surroundings, the theater can hold only a realtively small gathering.



Another women seeks refugee status to avoid U.S. justice

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Another U.S. woman is seeking refugee status because she is wanted in the States as a criminal suspect.

This time it is Ellen M. Stubenhaus, who has benefited from a favorable Sala IV ruling. The court said that her application for refugee status must be resolved before her extradition can be ordered. The ruling is against a criminal court judge in Osa, Hazel Lorena Murillo Beita, who ordered that she be sent north.

The case must be decided first by the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería, said the Sala IV. However, it stopped short of ordering her released from prison where she has been awaiting developments in her case.

Ms. Stubenhaus served on the executive council of Pinnacle Quest International, which is a tax scheme, according to federal officials.

The United States got an injunction against Pinnacle Quest May 15, 2008, in Pensacola, Florida. The government said that Pinnacle was a new incarnation of Global Prosperity, which was notorious and run by David Sruckman. It said Pinnacle used Global Prosperity's sales force, Web sites and data bases.

The injunction names Ms. Stubenhaus as being a member of the executive council that ran the operation. The federal injunction said that from 2002 to 2006 Pinnacle Quest salespeople earned $36 million in commissions and that Pinnacle Quest took in $16 million. The sales were done with multilevel marketing and involved tickets to
conferences, audio tapes and discs and access to certain Web sites. These products tell purchasers that the U.S. income tax system is voluntary and that they are not required to pay U.S. income tax.

The U.S. government said that the country lost millions in tax revenue due to the fraudulent information contained in these conferences and products produced by Pinnacle or other firms that Pinnacle allowed to market to its customer base.

A federal judge signed an arrest warrant against Ms. Stubenhaus Aug. 21, 2008. Interpol agents arrested her in July 2009 in Ojochal where she was working as a chiropractor. She had lived in Escazú, they said.

She entered the country in 2008.

Two other women wanted in the United States to answer charges of parental child abduction have been granted refugee status here. As a refugee they cannot be extradited to answer the charges. Costa Rican officials seem to award refugee status without making any kind of serious investigation. Men who come here illegally with children are sent back rapidly.

The former security minister, Janina del Vecchio, was instrumental in helping both women. In one case, the U.S. Embassy delayed taking action against one woman for years until her minor child reached 18 years even though embassy workers knew where the women was living.

Unlike the two prior fugitives, Ms. Stubenhaus is not alleging domestic violence in her refugee petition.


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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, May 10, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 90

Medical vacations in Costa Rica

Ambassadors and senator
made up U.S. delegation


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President Barack Obama sent a relatively lightweight delegation to the inauguration of President Laura Chinchilla Saturday.

The ranking member of the delegation appeared to be Susan E. Rice, the U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations. She was accompanied by Christopher Dodd, a lame-duck U.S. senator, and Nancy Sutley, identified as president of the White House council of Environmental Quality. Joining the delegation was Anne S. Andrew, the U.S. ambassador here.

By contrast, Canada sent Peter Kent, minister of foreign affairs in the Americas. When Óscar Arias Sánchez was inaugurated, Laura Bush, the wife of the sitting U.S. president, represented the United States.

The White House also delayed until Friday announcing the delegation. By that time the visitors already were either en route or in the country.

When Abel Pacheco was inaugurated, the U.S. delegation was headed by a cabinet minister.

The presidents of the Central American countries attended the Saturday ceremony as did the president of the Republic of Georgia.

Dodd, who is not seeking re-election, visited with Ms. Chinchilla and then-president Óscar Arias Sánchez in February after her election. His older brother was ambassador here, and he had traveled in Latin American extensively.


Legion planning picnic
for Memorial Day


Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The American Legion Post 10, located in Escazú, is holding an old fashion Memorial Day picnic Sunday, May 30.

"All the things you remember from the past," promised an announcement, citing: swimming pool with changing facilities and showers, children play area, music, hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken, potato salad, baked beans, cole slaw, natural and soft drinks. Cash bar for beer, wine and liquor.

The picnic will be held at Club Cubano in Guachipelin, Escazú. There is no need to worry about the rainy season as a large open air covered rancho is available and there is plenty of parking, said the Legion. The site is handicap accessible, and there is bus service to the door from Coca Cola, the Legion said.

The event starts at noon and continues until 7.00 p.m. Tickets are 7,000 colons and are limited. More information available at  www.americanlegioncostaricapost10.org  under the menu item "Special Events." Or those interested can call John at 2232-1680, Mel 2288-0454 or Rich 2249-0446.

Weapon on display grabbed

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Acting on a tip from a caller, Fuerza Pública officers confiscated a 3.5 rocket launcher from a gun shop in Mall San Pedro Friday. The weapon, which police said was operational, had been on display in the store for 10 years, they said. Police said they would destroy it. There was no indication that munitions for the device were in the store.
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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, May 10, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 90


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U.S. jobs increase despite
hike in unemployment rate


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The U.S. economy created 290,000 jobs in April, the most in any month in the past four years.  U.S. President Barack Obama says the Labor Department's latest employment numbers are an encouraging sign.  

President Obama says the U.S. economy has come a very long way since he took office early last year.

"We now know that the economy has been growing for the better part of a year, and this steady growth is starting to give businesses the confidence to expand and to hire new people," said President Obama.

While April was the fourth straight month that the economy has had a net gain in jobs, the unemployment rate edged up to 9.9 percent, from 9.7 percent in March.

The Labor Department says more than 800,000 people who had given up looking for work are trying again, and Obama says that is also a good sign.

"Given the strength of these job numbers, this may seem contradictory, but this increase is largely a reflection of the fact that workers who had dropped out of the workforce entirely are now seeking jobs again, encouraged by better prospects," said Mr. Obama.

Opposition Republicans blame the Obama administration for an unemployment rate they say is unacceptably high.  A statement from Republican Rep. Mike Pence says the Democrats' "policies of taxing, spending and bailouts are having a chilling effect on job creators across the country."

Some 15.3 million Americans were unemployed in April.  The president acknowledges that putting them back to work will take time.

"Over the course of this recession, more than 8 million jobs were lost," said the president. "So there are a lot of people out there who are still experiencing real hardship.  We have got to be mindful that today's job numbers, while welcome, leave us with a lot of work to do.  It is going to take time to achieve the strong and sustained job growth that is necessary."

Analysts do not expect hiring to increase enough in the coming months to bring the jobless rate down significantly.

But the experts say the high number of jobs added last month shows that businesses are feeling more confident in the U.S. economic recovery. 

Factory production increased in April at the fastest pace in almost six years, and consumer spending was up in March by the largest amount in five months. 





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