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(506) 2223-1327       Published Monday, May 18, 2009,  in Vol. 9, No. 96     E-mail us
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Japanese tourists
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Cautious
tourists

A group of Japanese tourists visited a celebration at the Museo Nacional Sunday, but a high percentage of the group wore surgical masks. They also seemed reluctant to get too close to Costa Ricans.

Costa Rica, of course, won its swine flu notoriety when a man with the disease died. Although he had many other health problems he still becomes a swine flu statistic.

No one else at the celebration, the International Day of Museums, wore a mask, except the costumed characters.





Chief magistrate wants committee to fight crime
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The supreme court president wants Óscar Arias Sánchez to reactivate a citizen security committee to weigh the problems of drug trafficking and juvenile criminals.

The court president, Luis Paulino Mora Mora, wrote this in a letter that was released by the Poder Judicial Friday.

Mora Mora said that he did not think that the branches of government could handle the problems working separately.

The committee he cited was the entity that supervised the creation of the flagrancy court where those caught in the act are supposed to meet swift justice. It also was the author of a new law that is supposed to protect victims and witnesses and a proposed law that is supposed to give law enforcement tools to fight organized crime.

Arias set up the committee in March 2007 but it has done little since its chairwoman, Laura Chinchilla, resigned as the nation's vice president in October. She wants to run for president.

Mora Mora's letter is believed to have been encouraged by criminal activities that affected high-level members of the Poder Judicial and the recognition that juvenile crime is flourishing without much punishment.

The country has had some rude shocks in the last few months. A gang took 320 kilos of cocaine from a prosecutor's office in Golfito with minimal interference by two armed Fuerza Pública guards.
And a former ministry of security pilot crashed a helicopter May 1, and about 395 kilos of cocaine were found in the wreckage.

In both cases, investigators suspect inside help. In the Golfito case, the robbers were able to attract away two other Fuerza Pública officers with a fake domestic violence call. And at the crashed helicopter, investigators searched in vane for the electronic device that would have told them where the cocaine was picked up. Someone disconnected it and carried it off even while the crash site was under guard.

Under the Costa Rica justice system it is Mora Mora who is responsible for the investigation of crimes and the enforcement of laws. The Corte Suprema de Justica supervises the courts and also the Ministerio Público, the nation's independent prosecutorial agency. The court magistrates select the fiscal general or chief prosecutor. The court also supervises the Judicial Investigating Organization.

It is unusual for a supreme court president to try to put this responsibility on a multi-agency committee.

About the same time that the letter was released, a judge freed four of five persons suspected of participating in a fatal drive-by shooting in Coronado last February. Prosecutors sought preventative detention for three adults and two juveniles, but the judge only imposed preventative detention on one of the two juveniles.

The Judicial Investigating Organization had raided where the suspects lived and confiscated weapons and drugs, they said. The father of the dead youth is leading the criticism.


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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, May 18, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 96

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

Puriscal Properties
sportsmens update
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Professional Directory
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.


Residency experts

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Hearing consultant

English-speaking hearing consultant 
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We are affiliated with Widex hearing instruments because of their quality, natural sound and intelligibility over background noise. That means  no more echoing, feedback or interference.
We service the U.S. veterans/ Foreign Medical Program.
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Ph/Fax: 2221-9462, 8841-0007
Gasoline prices to drop,
as will diesel and gas

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The price setting agency had reduced the cost of motor fuel based on the devaluation of the colon and the lower world petroleum market.

This is the monthly price fixing.

Super gasoline will go down 32 colons per liter. That's about 6 U.S. cents. The new price, when the numbers are published in the La Gaceta official newspaper, will be 452 colons per liter or about 80 U.S. cents.

Plus gasoline is going down 39 colons to 435 or about 76.6 cents.  Diesel also is going down 32 colons to 354 colons per liter.

The new prices will be 1,711 colons per U.S. gallon or $3.01 for super and 1,647 colons for regular or $2.90. Diesel will sell for 1,340 colons per U.S. gallon or $2.36.

The agency, the Authoridad Reguladora de Servicios Públicos said that the new prices would be published this week in the La Gaceta. The prices go into force upon publication.

The price of liquid petroleum gas also went down some 21 colons to 229 colons a liter, some 40 U.S. cents. An 8.5-cylinder will sell for 2,394 colons or $4.22, a savings of 182 colons or 32 U.S. cents. Many Costa Ricans use this type of gas for cooking and for heating the shower water.
 


Our readers' opinions
Most smokers die sooner,
so state may break even


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

The new anti-tobacco bill raises major issues of societal versus individual rights. Should society be forced to bear the burden of health care costs for smokers that far exceed those of non-smokers? Remember, non-smokers get health insurance breaks in many places — one indication that health care costs are lower for them.

But should the individual have the right to engage in behavior that does not harm others, even if it harms the person? Most of the world recognizes, within limits, the right of a person to engage in self harming behaviors — overeating being a great example. We have the right to stuff our faces with the most unhealthy foods imaginable with impunity, although even this has limits. Some airlines have started charging two fares for passengers who cannot fit in one seat (for which their seat mates are happy, I am sure).

And the kicker to this debate is that although smokers cost the health care system more, they also die much sooner. Some economists argue that it is a washout. In the long haul, smokers are less burden on family and society, they argue.

But the part I like best is the saying on the wall of the office of an attractive health care worker many years ago that almost had me quit earlier than I did. Her wall had this sign: "Kissing a smoker is like licking a dirty ashtray."

John French
San Roque de Barva
Smoker for 63 pack-years,
smoke-free for 20 years.


BCR account verification
seemed to be excessive


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:
 
I recall your story a while back on your bank account being frozen.   The same happened to me and other Americans here in Fortuna at Banco de Costa Rica and Banco Popular.  The friend at Banco Popular had $9,700 to wire transfer to the U.S. (paying credit card bills, etc. off his bank account in the U.S., as I do for same for medical insurance, a car payment, etc.).  These monies were legitimate from a real estate transaction of which he had the paperwork.   Mine was for only $885 frozen at Banco de Costa Rica when I tried to deposit $400 more and make a wire transfer of $1,200, which I do monthly to Bank of America.  

Well, they did what was more like an audit with me than the datos their paperwork states they need to update.
 
This account with Banco de Costa Rica I have had for seven years and was never questioned before.  Not only did they want the datos requested but wanted copies of my U.S. bank account statements from January to present. 

This was because with my paperwork I carry, they saw the statement I had which clearly shows payments to Visa, American Express, Medical insurance, and Social Security deposits.  Well, that changed the tone a bit: "Oh, you are a pensionista?"  

But, they then wanted to know why I don't have it deposited here with Banco de Costa Rica.  I had to explain that then how do I make my credit card payments, as Banco de Costa Rica does not have the capacity to do this online to U.S. credit card companies.   So, they then suggested I use my Banco de Costa Rica debit card to pay all my purchases, even when in the U.S.  

After the interrogation, I convinced them to unfreeze the account, as otherwise, I would be charged penalties as the American Express payment was due next day.  I also pulled rank and asked to speak to one of the principals in the bank who knows the prominent owners of a lodge in my village. 

There were other names of prominent business owners I threw out of my hat.  Well, they unfroze the account, pending my return this week with all the necessary documents and then some.
 
My attorney was shocked and informed me they have no right to copies of your U.S. bank statements nor documents of Social Security.  And, they asked about receipts for renting my rooms, as I run a B&B.  We are talking about two rooms, so I presented them with my permit and receipts of taxes on my property plus the permit, all paid for the year 2009.  They also went into the system researching my cédula and passports. 

I asked them why me with only $885 in my account when they should be concerned more with the criminals and those with huge amounts of monies being deposited.  Apparently, this in accordance with the U.S. since last year, and they are just following protocol here.
 
Well, I will not deposit any more monies into Banco de Costa Rica for fear of their freezing the account again.  Instead, I will do so thru my friend's account at Banco Nacional (to where the friend with Banco Popular changed his account).  My friends can then deposit monies in my U.S. account for me.  I also handle their B&B business of renting rooms and am paying all their bills and wages for the maid when they are in the U.S. 

Our mutual lawyer agreed this would be a better solution to paying my credit cards bills, etc. and not have to go thru this every year with Banco de Costa Rica.
 
My brother, who married a Tica, has problems over how much money she deposits into her bank account.   It cannot be more the 500,000 colons without proof of where it comes from.
 
Welcome to Paradise!
Ellen Neely
La Fortuna
 

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, May 18, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 96

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This year the Fourth of July will be celebrated on the third
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The July Fourth Independence Day celebration for U.S. citizens and family will be July 3 this year.

The organizing committee has set the date for a Friday at the Florida Ice and Farm picnic area west of San José. The committee soon will be sending out letters to potential patrons seeking donations. (NOTE: An earlier version of this story identified the day incorrectly as a Saturday.)

Susan Tessem, president of the American Colony Committee, wrote in the letter that the collection of an entrance fee last year helped cover some but not all expenses. In the past donations from patrons was the principal income. This is the 48th annual picnic, the letter said.
The event has as a goal the presentation of a typical July 4 celebration in Costa Rica mainly for U.S. youngsters who live here and might not have been exposed to the real thing up north. It has evolved into the largest U.S. expat party of the year.

The Florida Ice and Farm picnic grounds includes a sprawling field where youngsters participate in games during the picnic.

Many adults appreciate the free beer and hot dogs.

With the new, higher penalties for driving under the influence that went into effect at the first of the year,  motorists probably will be drinking with less vigor this year. However, there are bus stops on the Autopista General Cañas just outside the picnic grounds.


Phone company pays tab for supervision in telecom flap
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad caved in Friday and paid the new telecommunications regulator the 463,670,000 colons it owed, purportedly for eight months of supervision.

The institute, which runs the telephone service, said it didn't owe the money, in part because the telecom agency, the Superintendencia de Telecomunicaciones, did not exist for most of that period.

The Superintendencia had threated to shut down the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, including its electric services, its Internet operation and its telephone service. That would have left Costa Rica out of contact with the world.

In addition, the Superintendencia said it, too, would have to close because it did not have any money.

The amount paid was about $816,000, and the company did so under protest, according to Pedro Pablo Quirós Cortés, the executive president of the institute.

Quirós also said that private companies were hiring away
his skilled technicians in anticipation of the opening of the telecom market.

The opening relates to the agreement Costa Rica made under the free trade treaty with the Central American states, the United States and the Dominican Republic.

The Superintendencia had the support of Casa Presidencial, the Contraloría de la República and a decision by the Tribunal Contencioso Administrativo in San José.

The court ruled Thursday that the telephone company should pay the money.

The Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad is on the spot because it is the only agency actually offering telecom services. Private companies are not expected to begin service until next year, if then. The money being paid to the Superintendencia to its supervisory role will be assessed to telecom users when the rate structure is established.

The Superintendencia also is suggesting that there is enough wavelength in Costa Rica for three more cell telephone companies. The agency also appears ready to make major changes in the allocation of spectrum to accommodate private firms.


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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, May 18, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 96


dog on the job
Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública photo
Sunday sniffer

Police stopped cars and buses in Monte de la Cruz, Heredia, Sunday to check for drugs and underage drinkers. The area has popular spots for weekend outings. But police said the atmosphere was being ruined by young drinkers and drug users. In all, police stopped 16 cars and two buses and confiscated marijuana and screened 90 persons.

Tourist police and the Heredia municipal police participated along with a drug-sniffing dog that checked out backpacks and other packages.


Police and ag officials bust up afternoon of chicken fighting
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Police and animal health officials raided a chicken fighting operation in San Isidro de El General Saturday afternoon. They questioned 200 persons, confiscated more than 200 fighting birds and got a backhoe to tear down the structure.

The ring or rondel where the birds fought was elaborate with bleacher seats. The Fuerza Pública said officers confiscated two pistols and made note that alcohol was being served on the premises absent permits.

They also said that at least 20 minors were present when the raid took place.

The Servicio Nacional de Salud de Animal is an agency of the Ministerio de Agricultura y Gandería. That agency
warned that not only is chicken fighting illegal and cruel to animals, transporting fighting birds could provide access to animal diseases.

Chicken fighting is a traditional Latin sport that has been made illegal in the last century. Roosters, which have a natural inclination to protect their turf are fitted with sharp steel spurs. One or both birds die as a result of the fight. Spectators place bets on the outcome.

Since the location of such fights is well-known in the community, police raid one every two or three months. But most are jury-rigged affairs not as sophisticated as the one raided Saturday.

The birds were bagged individually and were to be slaughtered.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, May 18, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 96


A.M. Costa Rica
users 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 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.

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.

Statistics
A.M. Costa Rica makes its monthly statistics available to advertisers and readers. It is HERE! 

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.


Small plane lost power,
pilot tells investigators


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A pilot said he lost power in his single-engine aircraft and was forced to land on the Circunvalción Saturday. The aircraft bumped the roof of a car in the process, but there were no serious injuries or damage.

The plane, a Cessna, is the property of a flying school at Tobias Bolaños airport in Pavas. The pilot, identified as Héctor Sosa, 21, had just taken off when he began the emergency descent.

The point where he landed is near Autopista General Cañas on the Circunvalación west of San Jose's downtown.

Casa Presidencial to quit
ads objectionable to Araya


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The executive branch will discontinue television ads that Johnny Araya Monge says are too close in form and concept to those aired by his opponent, Laura Chinchilla.

The Araya campaign said Friday that Casa Presidencial has agreed to terminate the campaign, which was designed to show the accomplishments of the Óscar Arias Sánchez administration.

Ms. Chinchilla is a former vice president, and Arias has suggested that the country would benefit by having a woman as president.

She and Araya are seeking the nomination from the Partido Liberación Nacional. Polls show them in a dead heat with the public. It will be the party members who make the selection.

Araya is the former mayor of San José.  Also a candidate for the nomination is Fernando Berrocal, the former security minister, but he lags in the polls. The party convention is in three weeks.

Despite the lead by the other two candidates, Berrocal continues to campaign. He had the ill luck to be campaigning at a chicken fight in San Isidro de El General Saturday afternoon with other Partido Liberación Nacional candidates when police raided the location.


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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, May 18, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 96


Latin American news digest
Death of German woman
blamed on companion


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Fuerza Pública is attributing the murder of a German woman to a fight between companions.

The woman, identified by the Poder Judicial as Renate Lippi, died from three stab wounds in the neck early Friday in Sabana Larga in Atenas.

The male companion came in to police hands despite efforts to flee, they said. A watchman gave the alarm.  The Atenas prosecutor has sought preventative detention for the suspect, a Costa Rican.

U.S. student being sought
after accident in surf


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Rescue workers are seeking another U.S. tourist who is believed to have been carried out to sea by a rip tide.
Missing is Aly Zain Lakdawala, 21, according to Florida newspapers that attributed the identification to the University of South Florida where the man was a student.

The accident is believed to have happened in Matapalo. The student was in Costa Rica on a summer break program that places volunteers in various locations, according to the Tampa Tribune. Other students were caught in the surf but managed to escape, the newspaper said.

Nicoya road to be improved

 By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The dirt and gravel road between Jicaral and Lepanto on the Nicoya Peninsula will get asphalt and new bridges under a 5.4 billion-colons ($9.4-million) contract awarded to the  Hernán Solís firm Friday, said the Ministerio de Obras Pública y Transportes. This is a national route despite the condition. The contract covers 9 kilometers, about 5.6 miles. Two bridges will be constructed and an existing bridge will be widened to two lanes, said the ministry.


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