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(506) 2223-1327               Published Tuesday, May 18, 2010,  in Vol. 10, No. 96         E-mail us
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U.S. high court backs dad in child abduction case
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The U.S. Supreme Court has validated the parental right of a father in Chile whose wife took their son to the United States.

The case involves an interpretation of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. The U.S. high court decision focuses on whether a visitation right is among the rights protected by the international treaty.

The court decided, 5 to 3, that a parent has a right under the convention by reason of that parent’s ne exeat right or the right to associate with the child.

The case came to the court from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which, like the lower court, rejected the father's argument. The Supreme Court remanded the case back to the lower courts after deciding the specific point.

The decision has implications for parents in Costa Rica and in the United States. Although Costa Rica does not enforce the Hague Convention when foreign women are involved here, the legal groundwork applies to cases in the United States.

The decision means that a parent who has custody cannot take a child out of the United States if the other parent has at least visitation rights and has not consented.

The father, Timothy Abbott, is a British citizen living in Chile. His wife, Jacquelyn, brought their son to Texas without the father's permission, and he sued in federal court seeking the boy's return. The U.S. Supreme Court decision was released Monday. The majority opinion was written by Anthony Kennedy.

The United States government backed the father's case and filed a brief with the court. The justices
put a lot of weight on the country that was the habitual residence of the boy.

The court said that to interpret the convention to permit an abducting parent to avoid a return remedy, even when the other parent holds a ne exeat right, runs counter to the convention’s purpose of deterring child abductions to a country that provides a friendlier forum.

Denying such a remedy would legitimize the very action, removal of the child, that the convention was designed to prevent, while requiring return of the child in cases like this one helps deter abductions and respects the convention’s purpose to prevent harm to the child resulting from abductions, the decision said.

The decision said that the father's right is not absolute and could be voided if there is a showing that the boy would face grave harm if he is returned to Chile. Such an exception is in the treaty. Justices also have noted that Mrs. Abbott could have asked a court in Chile to give her permission to take the boy north even if the father declined.

Costa Rica has awarded two U.S. mothers in separate cases refugee status so they would not have to return to the United States to submit to judicial authority there. In one case, the Costa Rican public defender claimed that a women has acquired Costa Rican nationality because she married a Tico a few months before.

Typically such cases are decided here on political expediency and sentiment rather than law. Although such cases make headlines, there are many more cases involving a child with one U.S. parent that plod through the local family courts. And there are a number of cases in which a Costa Rican woman has taken a child from the United States when fleeing from a U.S. former partner.


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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, May 18, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 96

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European union reaches
Central American trade deal


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services
and the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The European Union has reached a trade accord with Costa Rica and other Central American states after a two-year roller coaster ride. The agreement is a major political victory for President Laura Chinchilla, who was in Madrid, Spain, to consult over the negotiations.

The details of the agreement have not been released. That will come today.

Anabel González, the minister of Comercio Exterior, headed the negotiations. She was one of the main negotiators for the free trade treaty with the United States.

The agreement comes at a good time because European Union and Latin American leaders also are holding a summit in Madrid where they have agreed to restart other stalled trade talks, and address other issues. The idea of liberalizing trade between the two sides is controversial over and above the Central American accord.

The three-day Madrid summit is expected to address a number of issues, including Haiti's recovery from its devastating earthquake and climate change.  Also on the agenda is deepening trade ties between the 27-member European Union and Latin America, specifically reviving free-trade talks between the European Union and the Latin American bloc, Mercosur.  The block consists of Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay.

Opening up the summit, Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero of Spain talked about pacts already forged between the European Union and two Latin American countries, Chile and Mexico.  Spain hopes to make the Madrid summit a highlight of its rotating European Union presidency, which ends June 30.

Zapatero said the E.U. agreements with Chile and Mexico had brought many benefits and there is still plenty of unexplored territory to tap.

The European Union is Latin America's second-largest trading partner, and some European officials are eager to strengthen those trade ties, aware of growing competition from China, among other nations.

But France and several other E.U. nations are wary of a free-trade agreement with Mercosur, arguing it could hurt European farmers. Nevertheless, agreement was reached to resume talks on reaching a free trade agreement.

Overshadowing the Madrid summit is the financial crisis in Greece and its fallout, notably sharp drops in stock markets and the euro currency, despite a massive fallback package of loans for troubled E.U. economies.

Speaking to reporters in Madrid, E.U. permanent President Herman van Rompuy defended the bailout plan by the European Union and International Monetary Fund, which totals nearly $1 trillion.  He noted European officials are also committed to strengthening the governance of the 16-nation Euro-zone of countries that use the euro currency. "This is a strong and credible package of decisions. Let me reaffirm the determination of the euro-area authorities to ensure the stability of the euro area as a whole, as a main contribution to the stability in the global economy," he said.

Euro-zone finance ministers have been meeting in Brussels to talk about tighter financial regulation, among other issues.

Costa Rican woman picked
for U.N. climate change role

 
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

U. N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has appointed Christiana Figueres of Costa Rica as executive secretary of the U. N. Framework Convention on Climate Change to succeed Yvo de Boer.

Ms. Figueres is an international leader on strategies to address global climate change and brings to this position a passion for the issue, deep knowledge of the stakeholders and valuable hands-on experience with the public sector, non-profit sector and private sector, the U.N. said in a release.  Ms. Figueres has been involved in climate change negotiations since 1995, and served as a negotiator of both the U. N. Framework Convention on Climate Change and Kyoto Protocol. She also served as Vice-President of the Framework from 2008 to 2009, and as a member of the executive board of the Clean Development Mechanism in 2007.

From 1995 to 2003, she was the founder and executive director of the Center for Sustainable Development in the Americas, a non-profit think tank for climate change policy and capacity-building.  From 1994 to 1996 she served with the U. S. Export Council for Renewable Energy as director of the Technical Secretariat, Renewable Energy in the Americas.

Ms. Figueres has served on many boards of non-governmental organizations intimately involved in climate change issues, including the Winrock International and the Voluntary Carbon Standard.  She has advised private-sector companies playing a leadership role in climate mitigation, including the Carbon Rating Agency.

Ms. Figueres was born in San José, Costa Rica, in 1956.  She is married to Konrad von Ritter and has two daughters, Naima and Yihana.

Nicoya man faces murder charge

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A Nicoya man with the last names of Valencia Moraga has been jailed for investigation in the knifing death last week of Edson Danilo Moraga Cubillo, 22, in Barrio San Martín.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, May 18, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 96

Teacher loses pair of court cases in an effort to stay here
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A U.S. English teacher has lost two appeals to the Sala IV constitutional court in attempts to avoid deportation. The teacher is Marissa Henkel, according to court documents. A summary by the Poder Judicial said that she worked four years for the Centro Agronómico Tropical de Investigación y Enseñanza. While at the school Ms. Henkel had a work visa issued under an intrnational agreement via the Minsterio de Relaciones Exteriores y Culto. But she left that job in December.

The Poder Judicial said that she took a similar job with the Panamerican School.   That school is in San Antonio de Belén and has students from primary to high school.

In her filing, Ms. Henkel said that she provided the school
 all the documentation needed to get another work visa but that an immigration worker cited her at the school and took her passport. The agent ordered her to a March 23 appointment at the agency's facilities in la Uruca.

The appointment was unsuccessful, and she said that an unfriendly immigration worker told her there was nothing she could do except buy a ticket and leave the country.

The Sala IV rejected this appeal in April.

The Poder Judicial Web site said that Ms. Henkel filed another appeal May 11, but it was rejected the same day that it was handed in.

In both cases, the appeals were against the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería.


Ex-lawmaker, Christian youth are targets of gay complaints
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An organization that supports gay rights says it has filed a criminal case against a former legislator who says homosexuality is a disease and a complaint with the Judicial Investigating Organization over Christian youth who are trying to get signatures for a referendum on civil unions between people of the same sex.

The organization is Fundación Mundial Déjame Vivir en Paz, which noted in a press release that May 17 was the Día Nacional Contra la Homofobia.

The organization also said that The Interamerican Human Rights Commission is studying a Costa Rican prohibition

that forbids conjugal visits for prisoners when the individuals involved are of the same sex.

The organization said that the World Health Organization removed homosexuality from its list of mental diseases 20 years ago, but that Juan José Vargas, the former legislator, continues to characterize such relationships as illnesses when he gives press interviews. The organization said it filed its case with the Juzgado de Contravencional del 1 Circuito Judicial de San José. It did not specify the nature of the allegation.

The group asked the Judicial police to investigate the actions of Christian youth who were collecting referendum signatures because they were characterizing the vote as being about gay marriage.


Lawmakers act quickly to move their pay raise forward
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

They have four years left in office and they can't run again, so legislative deputies took another step Monday toward raising their salaries by 60 percent.

The Partido Acción Ciudadana and Frente Amplio, both minor parties, opposed the increase that will give each of the 57 lawmakers about 4.5 million colons a month, about $8,700 at today's exchange rate.

Monday Partido Liberación Nacional, Unidad Social Cristiana, Movimiento Libertario, Accesibilidad sin Exclusión, Restauración Nacional and Renovación Nacional
signed a motion to give the pay raise priority in the legislative session. Acción Ciudadana quickly issued a statement saying that its lawmakers were blindsided by the quick action and rapid vote.

The vote total was 44 to 11.

Carmen Muñoz of Acción Ciudadana said that the other lawmakers have put in the freezer other issues like increasing the budget for education.

The motion puts the pay raise bill on what is called the fast track where debate is limited and extra legislative sessions can be called to move the bill forward toward passage.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, May 18, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 96


Residents near Cinchona take a chance on substandard road

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Residents in the Cinchona vicinity have taken matters into their own hands and opened the stretch of road between La Paz and El Ángel waterfalls and Cinchona.

The national emergency commission immediately labeled the route as highly dangerous. It had been blocked off.

The road was damaged in the Jan. 8, 2009, earthquake that hit the area, and residents are sick of waiting for the government to fix the route. Highway officials estimate that the four-kilometer stretch would cost about $13 million.

The route is on a shelf road with high cliffs on one side and a steep drop off on the other. The road opened by
residents is just six meters wide, about 20 feet. The roadway is mud and gravel. Some of the gravel comes from rocks from above that have been crushed by traffic. Boulders hang above the roadway, and some of the cliffs are vertical. Officials fear that the rainy seaosn will make matters much worse.

The emergency commission, the Ministerio de Obras Públicas and the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad are planning to construct a less dangerous alternate route.

The electric company is involved because there are high tension towers in the area.

When the Cinchona earthquake took place, large sections of roadway simply fell into the valley below taking any vehicles that were on the stretch there, too.



Obama signs bill to require press freedom accounting

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

President Barack Obama has signed a law that will require the U.S. government to shine a brighter spotlight on governments that tolerate or sanction press freedom violations.  The Daniel Pearl Freedom of the Press Act, which gained final approval from Congress last month, is named after the Wall Street Journal reporter who was kidnapped and murdered by terrorists in Pakistan in 2002.

The law directs the State Department to include in its annual global human rights report information detailing the state of press freedom and the extent to which governments are supporting or tolerating or are actually involved in violations.

In addition, the United States will look at actions governments take to preserve the safety and independence of the media, and steps they take to ensure that those who attack or murder journalists are prosecuted.

President Obama signed the law in an Oval Office ceremony, saying it sends a strong signal about core American values regarding freedom of the press, and of U.S. support for journalists he said are taking big risks around the world. "There are enormously courageous journalists, and bloggers, who, at great risk to themselves, are trying to shine a light on critical issues that people in their countries face, who are in the front lines against tyranny and oppression," he said.

Joining the president were Daniel Pearl's father, Judea, his
mother Ruth, his two sisters Michelle and Tamara, his widow, Mariane, and their 8-year-old son, Adam Daniel, who was born three months after his father was murdered while reporting on al-Qaida in Pakistan.

The law was approved by the House of Representatives last December, 403 to 12, and passed unanimously by the U.S. Senate in April.

The Daniel Pearl Freedom of the Press Act requires the State Department to include in its assessment such things as direct physical attacks, imprisonment, indirect sources of pressure and censorship by governments, military, intelligence, or police forces, criminal groups, or armed extremist or rebel groups.

President Obama called the death of Daniel Pearl a powerful reminder to the world of the threats journalists face from those who would silence them. "It reminded us of how valuable a free press is, and it reminded us that there are those who would go to any length in order to silence journalists around the world," he said.

President Obama said the law sends a strong message that the U.S. government is paying attention to what other governments do when it comes to a free press.  

Without this kind of attention, he said, governments feel they can operate against the press with impunity.  The legislation, he said, helps send a message that they cannot, adding he intends to make sure this is carried out with vigor by the State Department.


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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, May 18, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 96

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Calderón to visit Obama
for pat on back over drugs

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Mexican President Felipe Calderón will be in Washington Wednesday and Thursday for a state visit that will include an address to a joint session of Congress.  Calderon's trip comes as both nations publicly claim greater cooperation in tackling violence stemming from cross-border drug trafficking, as well as immigration and trade issues. 

Both presidents consider their efforts crucial to future generations of Americans and Mexicans.

And Presidents Barack Obama and Felipe Calderón have pledged cooperation on a wide range of issues, especially border security aimed at battling drug and gun trafficking, and the flow of illegal immigrants into the United States.

"We have to acknowledge that we live in a common house, in a common region. And the future of one country will be tied to the other," said Juan Pardinis, with the Woodrow Wilson International Center's Mexico Institute. 

He said Mexico should push for labor reforms and better education to give its youth viable, legal alternatives to the drug trade.

And the U.S. Congress should approve more funding to Mexico for training, equipment and other initiatives to fight the drug trade.

Since December 2006, Calderón has deployed more than 45,000 troops to combat the drug cartels. But escalating violence has killed more than 22,000 people since then.

No new initiatives are expected during Calderon's visit.

"Overall, this will be a meeting about reaffirming the status quo, reaffirming the progress that's being made on lots of different issues, but not one with a big ambitious agenda," said Shannon O'Neil, who is with the Council on Foreign Relations. She says Calderón will likely restate his opposition to a new law in the southwestern U.S. state of Arizona that requires immigrants to carry registration documents at all times. Both Calderón and Obama say the measure encourages unfair profiling of Mexicans.

But O'Neil says the Obama administration must not allow Calderon's criticism to deflect attention from joint U.S.-Mexican successes, especially in the war on drugs. "They need to validate that this is the way forward with Mexico, and in general, by being seen together and talking about things in a quite positive way that it is worth this investment in security," she said.

Calderon's term in office ends in two years. Some analysts see him as a lame duck president with a keen interest in support from Washington.

"He wants American validation for the war on drugs," said political analyst Denise Dresser. "He wants a big pat on the back. He wants recognition for his boldness, bravery,  his willingness to take on organized crime, at a time when the war on drugs is increasingly unpopular in his own country. I think Felipe Calderón is coming here with the hope that once President Obama embraces him and says all the right things in terms of applauding what he has done right over the past three years. he can bolster his political legitimacy."

A recent poll in Mexico shows that 52 percent of Mexicans would support the comeback of the Partido Revolucionario Institucional after 12 years of rule by Calderon's Partido Acción Nacional.
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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, May 18, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 96


Latin American news
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Weather warning renewed
for thunder and lightning


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Despite warnings of afternoon downpours from the weather institute, there was hardly any measurable precipitation in Costa Rica from 7 a.m. Monday.

However, the Instituto Meteorológico Nacional has renewed its forecast for today and said that high humidity and rising temperatures can lead to afternoon downpours in the Central Valley, the Pacific coast and the mountainous areas of the Caribbean coast and northern zone. Lightning is predicted, too.

The weather institute came out with a warning about 9 a.m. Monday, and said that the conditions were very typical of the rainy season.

But more rain fell Sunday than Monday. Juan Santamaría had 26.1 millimeters or a bit more than an inch from 7 a.m. Sunday to 7 a,m, Monday,

Monday the automatic weather stations reported rain that ranged from zero to a heavy mist.

Suspect is local man

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A 25-year-old man who is a suspect in the brutal beating of a Dominical area real estate broker has been identified as Jason Rojas Rodríguez of the area. He has been jailed for six months preventative detention for investigation of armed robbery and fraud, according to the Judicial Investigating Organization.

Ben Vaughn, the victim, continues to recuperate in Hospital CIMA where he was airlifted from Cortez last week with critical head injuries.

For several days officials were reluctant to release the name of the suspect, and the prosecutor in the case refused to do so Monday.

Bridge job closing highway

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Road officials will be closing the rotonda de Alajuelita on the Circunvalación at 8 p.m. tonight so that a construction firm can install concrete supports over the highway.  The roadway will be closed until 5 a.m. Officials plan to do the same next Monday evening and the evening of May 29.

The firm MECO is building a bridge over the traffic circle that will allow most vehicles to bypass the congestion there.  The job is about $11 million.






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The contents of this page and this Web site are copyrighted by Consultantes Río Colorado 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007  and 2008 and may not be reproduced anywhere without permission. Abstracts and fair use are permitted.  Check HERE for details